Jimmy (Jimbo) Wales is the revolutionary luminary who founded Wikipedia. Based on the Hawaiian term wiki, meaning "quick", "fast", or "to hasten," Wikipedia grew out of a project to produce a multi-lingual, web based encyclopedia.
As a university teacher, in 1999 Wales had a student design a top down (traditional), multi-lingual web based encyclopedia but it was too slow to be practical. In 2001 the idea of using wiki software, that is, software that allows users to create and edit web pages using a common browser, led to the founding of Wikipedia. It is now familiar to all of us but was a radical idea when he started it… a peer reviewed encyclopedia that is open source, meaning anyone can ad, delete or edit entries.
Controversial because of questions about the reliability of the information sometimes, it is now closely monitored and there are rules for editors. It remains open source and is one of the most used repositories of knowledge on the planet, with more than one million articles in English (compared with the Britannica’s 80,000) and hundreds of thousands in other languages, all freely available.
Born in 1966 in Alabama, Wales’ father was a grocery store manager, his mother and grandmother ran a small private school, "in the tradition of the one-room schoolhouse," where Jimbo went to school through 8th grade. He went on to degrees in finance, post graduate studies, teaching and a successful career in finance.
Wired Magazine says “Wikipedia represents a belief in the supremacy of reason and the goodness of others. From the respectful clash of opposing viewpoints and the combined wisdom of the many, something resembling the truth will emerge." Jimbo currently travels the world spreading the word about the success of Wikipedia and the importance of free culture. He says “imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.”
Two of his many honors include: being listed #1 in the Scientists & Thinkers section of a special edition of the May 8, 2006 Time Magazine of the 100 most influential people. And, Wales was nominated for Beard of the Year in 2006.
NOTE: Bio is as it appeared in the Forum program from October 3, 2007.