The university of Ghent will award an honorary doctorate on 19 March to the computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and as is fitting for the man who invented the World Wide Web, the ceremony will take place online.
Strange as it may seem, it was as recently as 1989 that Berners-Lee, while working at CERN in Switzerland, proposed an information management system based on hypertext – documents that contain references to other documents, known as hyperlinks – which would allow researchers to share and update each other’s information.
He went on to create the World Wide Web, inventing a web browser to navigate the system, and developing the first web server.
And the rest is history. Thanks to his invention, it is now just as easy to access scientific papers in the blink of an eye as it is to find hours of Baby Shark videos.
The award for Professor Berners-Lee comes 21 years after his CERN colleague and UGent alumnus Robert Cailliau received one of his own.
Sir Tim has his own close links with the university. His research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology works closely with Professor Ruben Verborgh of Ghent’s faculty of engineering science, and he is chief technical officer of the spin-off Inrupt.
“Years ago, Ruben, a young researcher from my research group, came to visit me,” recalled UGent rector Rik Van de Walle.
“He saw something in collaboration with Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web. Well, he will never succeed, I thought. But he did. And it led to a close, challenging and above all very stimulating collaboration with a very special man and his team. Few can rightly say that they have had (and have) as much impact on the way we live, as Tim Berners-Lee.”