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Thorne & Berners-Lee Receive Common Wealth Awards

May 12, 2005

Kip Thorne, Tim Berners-Lee Receive Common Wealth Awards

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC — Sigma Xi nominated two distinguished scientists for the 2005 Common Wealth Awards. In April, astrophysicist Kip S. Thorne received the award in science and invention, while the award in mass communications went to computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee.

Established by the late Coca-Cola executive Ralph Hayes and administered by PNC Bank (formerly the Bank of Delaware), the Common Wealth Award includes a cash prize of $50,000. Other award categories honor achievements in literature, sociology, public service and government, and the dramatic arts.

For four decades, Thorne, 64, has been opening new windows on the universe for scientists and lay audiences alike. He is the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology, where he has taught since 1966.

He is widely known for mentoring young scientists and for his groundbreaking work in applying general relativity to astrophysics. His innovative research has elucidated gravitational waves, black holes, neutron stars and the nature of space, time and gravity. Thorne has been at the vanguard of researchers studying gravitational waves, hypothetical ripples in space produced by disturbances in the universe.

He was one of three scientists who conceived and founded the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). Using LIGO's instruments, physicists hope to detect and measure gravitational waves and use them to probe the nature of gravity and the dark side of the universe. Thorne co-authored the classic textbook, Gravitation, and wrote a bestseller for lay readers, Black Holes and Time Warps, Einstein's Outrageous Legacy.

Tim Berners-Lee (Photo Courtesy of Le Fevre Communications), 49, revolutionized modern communication with his landmark invention of the World Wide Web. As director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he continues to guide the Web's ongoing development.

Berners-Lee envisioned a global information space where documents stored on computers everywhere could be interconnected and available to everyone. He developed a global hypertext system to retrieve and access information using the power of the Internet.

He wrote the underlying technical codes—URLs, HTTP and HTML—and also created the first Web server software and the original browser program. Dubbing his new creation the World Wide Web, Berners-Lee posted the Web software on the Internet in 1991, creating the first Web site and making it freely available to the world. He has never profited from his invention.

Berners-Lee is now spearheading work on the "Semantic Web," a universal medium that will make information understandable by machines as well as humans.


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