OffBeat

Queen Elizabeth bestows royal honors on Internet pioneers

qeprizeQueen Elizabeth II is honoring five technology luminaries with the first ever Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. Robert Kahn, Vint Cerf, Louis Pouzin, Tim Berners-Lee, and Marc Andreesseen will share the award for their “groundbreaking innovation in engineering that has been of global benefit to humanity.”

“Over the past 60 years, I have had the privilege of seeing how engineering developments can make a profound impact on people’s lives,” said the queen in a statement. “I am delighted to lend my support to this prize and I hope that it inspires many more people across the globe to develop life-changing engineering creations in the years to come.”

The five winners will split $1.5 million (£1 million). The award is less about the financial gain (a drop in the bucket for these wealthy men) but rather about acknowledgement and prestige from real-life royalty and a voice of tradition speaking out for the future.

According to the site’s Q & A, the point of the prize is to draw attention and prestige to engineering in the U.K. and emphasize the Internet’s growing political, business, and international importance:

“Perceptions of engineering are often outdated. If people think of it at all, they tend to associate engineering with heavy industry and civil infrastructure. This is not only a limited view of what engineering is really about, it means many young, creative people – especially women – don’t consider a career in engineering. The prize will recognise and celebrate the best and also serve to illuminate the sheer excitement of modern engineering. It will provide an unparalleled opportunity to demonstrate how engineers and engineering are making a real difference across the world. The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering will excite and inspire a whole generation of young people.”

The prize was announced backed in November 2011 and received unilateral support from politicians and corporations, including BAE Systems, BP, GlaxoSmithKline, Jaguar Land Rover, Shell, Siemens, and Toshiba, who donated to the trust. The QEPrize Foundation is chaired by Lord Browne Madingley and the day-to-day operations are handled by the Royal Academy of Engineering.  Nominations opened on February 28, 2012, and then a panel of judges, consisting of “eminent international figures representing the range of engineering disciplines and reflecting every region of the world” deliberated to select the winner(s.)

The award is not limited to Internet technology, although the first honorees are all from this field. Pouzin, Kahn, and Cerf are pioneers in Internet Protocol (IP), which makes up the fundamental architecture of the Internet. Andreessen wrote the Mosaic browser that made the web more accessible, and Berners-Lee (who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2004) “invented” the World Wide Web.

The formal presentation of the prize will happen in June just before Kate Middleton’s due date, which, let’s be honest, is what Brits are really excited about.

Photo Credit: dbking/Flickr