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Internet pioneers win inaugural 'Nobel for technology'

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Engineers who helped create the internet and the web were awarded the inaugural Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering this week. The £1 million (roughly $1.5 million) prize -- being promoted as the "Nobel Prize for technology" -- will be shared among:

  • Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the world wide web.
  • Vinton Cerf and Louis Pouzin, who wrote the TCP/IP protocols that define how data travel around the internet.
  • Robert Kahn, who helped work out how data should be labeled so they reach the correct destination.
  • Marc Andreessen, who developed the first popular browser, Mosaic.

"The prize recognizes what has been a roller-coaster ride of wonderful international collaboration," Berners-Lee says. "Bob and Vint's work on building the internet was re-enforced by Louis' work on datagrams and that enabled me to invent the web… Marc's determined and perceptive work built on these platforms a product which became widely deployed across nations and computing platforms.”

Organized by the British Royal Academy of Engineering, the prize awarded these men “for their innovations, which have revolutionized the way we communicate and enabled the development of whole new industries.”

According to British prime minister David Cameron, the aim was to reward innovation and inspire still more innovation -- at a time when U.K. patenting rates are flagging, New Scientist reports.

The men were commended for having the foresight to make their work freely available without restriction. The internet and the WWW couldn’t have taken off in the same way without this open approach, BBC explains.

The prize will run every two years. The prize money is donated by 11 award sponsors, including BAE Systems, Toshiba, GlaxoSmithKline, and Sony.

An award ceremony will be held at Buckingham Palace in June.

[Via New Scientist, BBC]

Image: Royal Academy of Engineering

— By on March 21, 2013, 2:36 AM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure