Queen Elizabeth II is not exactly known for being a digital-first champion of technology, but it looks like the British monarchy may be trying to change that association going forward, with a new award to recognize tech leaders, the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. The first £1 million ($1.5 million) prize has been awarded to five people: Robert Kahn, Vinton Cerf and Louis Pouzin for their contributions to the Internet protocol, Tim Berners-Lee for creating the World Wide Web and Marc Andreessen for his work on the Mosaic browser.
The announcement was made earlier today at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London.
The prize will be formally presented by the Queen Elizabeth II this June. Nominations for the prize closed in September 2012, and were voted on by a closed committee starting in January. The prize was originally supposed to be awarded to only up to three people but the committee chose to award it to five under “special circumstances.” They will together share the £1 million pot.
Andreessen wrote a note acknowledging his share of the prize on his blog, saying that he intends to donate his portion to charitable causes that help promote engineering. “I am humbled and grateful to be a co-winner of the 2013 Queen Elizabeth Prize,” he wrote. After acknowledging his partner in Mosaic, Eric Bina, who “co-wrote the original code for Mosaic with me — specifically all the difficult parts,” he also gave a hat-tip to Larry Smarr, Joe Hardin, and colleagues at NCSA and the University of Illinois at that time.
“It is amazing to think that the consumer Internet and the World Wide Web are still only 20 years old,” he writes. “I firmly believe our field’s best days are still ahead of us, and I can’t wait to see what the next generation of engineers will accomplish.”
Indeed, it’s interesting to note that the inaugural winners of the prize are all men, and that they are pioneers in some of the more fundamental elements of Internet technology — leaving out wireless innovations, and any kind of hardware developments, as just two examples.
Presumably, the award — meant to be as much about recognizing past achievements as it is about inspiring people in the future — will widen out to cover other kinds of technology and engineering, and perhaps some females, too.
As you can see in this picture, the Queen herself has in her time dabbled in a little engineering, with this picture taken while doing some volunteering service during World War II.
Image: British Monarchy