Germans rank Berners-Lee alongside Einstein

The inventor of the World Wide Web has been rated as important as the brains behind the theory of relativity

Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee was hailed on Thursday as one of the world's greatest scientists by the organisers of Germany's national Quadriga awards.

The organisers said that British-born Berners-Lee and German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein are the most important scientists of the 20th century. Berners-Lee was praised for making the World Wide Web "free for everyone", instead of patenting the technologies involved.

Berners-Lee created the Web while working at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory in Geneva. To allow users to browse documents over a network he wrote the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), invented URLs, and wrote the first Web browser.

He now heads up the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a not-for-profit organisation that works to enhance the Web.

Berners-Lee's contribution has been recognised by a number of award ceremonies in the last couple of years. Earlier this year, he was named "Briton of the year" for 2004. In 2004 he was knighted, received a €1m award from the Finnish Technology Award Foundation and collected a lifetime achievement gong at the CNET UK awards.

The Web inventor will receive the Quadriga award on October 3, the date when Germany celebrates the unification of East and West Germany in 1990.

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