Queen Elizabeth II led a low-tech life, but knighted many science-tech figures

Queen Elizabeth II led a low-tech life, but knighted many science-tech figures

Enlarge / Queen Elizabeth II of England reigned for a record 70 years. She died Thursday at the age of 96.

Chris Jackson – Pool WPA/Getty Images

The passing of Queen Elizabeth II, the UK’s longest-serving monarch, marks the end of an era not just for Britain but for the world. This includes the global science and technology community. During her long reign, the Queen bestowed various honors on several leaders in science and technology, her own knights of the science and technology table. We mark his passing with a shortlist of some of the most eminent scientists and technologists so honored.

technologists

Jony Ive

Apple CEO Tim Cook and Design Director Jony Ive review the new Mac Pro on June 3, 2019.
Enlarge / Apple CEO Tim Cook and Design Director Jony Ive review the new Mac Pro on June 3, 2019.

Jony Ive had a huge influence on the design of Apple products, including the distinctive appearance of the iMac, Power Mac G4 Cube, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and MacBook. You can also blame its obsession with thinness for the problematic butterfly keyboard and the removal of the MacBook’s MagSafe power connector, HDMI port, and SD card readers. Nobody is perfect.

I started his career at a London design company called Tangerine, where he was responsible for designing common household products such as microwave ovens, toilets, drills and toothbrushes. But he found the job frustrating, given that clients often didn’t share his sleek modern tastes. After one of those customers rejected his toilet and bidet design, he decided to accept an offer to join Apple, even if it meant moving his family to the United States. He had a rough start and almost gave up. Steve Jobs convinced him to stay when Jobs returned to the company after his infamous ousting in 1985.

Ive became senior vice president of industrial design in 1997, and his first big hit was the iMac, introduced in 1998, notable for its eye-catching transparent translucent plastic casing. This first design success led to many others. He and Jobs shared a similar outlook and were so close that there was a hidden hallway connecting their offices to Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California. I also played a key role in the design of Apple Park, which was completed in 2017. He left Apple in 2019 to start his own independent business.

Queen Elizabeth II knighted Ive on New Year’s Eve 2011 for “services to design and business”, making him Sir Jonathan Ive.

Tim Berners-Lee

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II invests Sir Timothy Berners-Lee with the insignia of Member of the Order of Merit of Sir Timothy Berners-Lee at Buckingham Palace in central London.
Enlarge / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II invests Sir Timothy Berners-Lee with the insignia of Member of the Order of Merit of Sir Timothy Berners-Lee at Buckingham Palace in central London.

Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty

Where would we be today without the visionary work of Tim Berners-Lee? He was the man who invented the World Wide Web while working at CERN in Switzerland in the 1980s. You can also blame him for the initial pair of double slashes in all web links, which he has later admitted as “unnecessary”. He started as an independent contractor at CERN in 1980, where he proposed a system to facilitate the sharing and updating of information between researchers in the laboratory, based on the concept of hypertext. He called his prototype system INQUIRE.

Berners-Lee spent the next few years working for a computer company in Dorset, England, developing “real-time remote procedure calling”. When he returned to CERN as a fellow in 1984, he used this experience of computer networks to link together various existing individual elements: hypertext, Internet, multi-font text objects, etc.

“I just had to put them together,” he said in 2007. “It was a generalization step, going to a higher level of abstraction, thinking about all the documentation systems existing as perhaps part of a larger imaginary documentation system.”

He and Robert Cailliau ended up building a system based on the bones of INQUIRE. Berners-Lee built the first web browser and launched the first website on December 20, 1990, hosted on the CERN server. He made sure his creation was freely available, avoiding any patents or royalties, so the technology could be used by anyone. He founded the World Wide Web Consortium to create compatible standards and continually improve the quality of the Web.

Berners-Lee was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004; she also appointed him to the prestigious Order of Merit in 2007.

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