Childhood & Early Life
Jimmy Wales was born on August 7, 1966, to Jimmy Sr. and Doris Ann, in Huntsville, Alabama. His father was a grocery store manager. He has three siblings.
His grandmother and mother reportedly ran a tiny private school ‘House of Learning’, where he was first educated.
From a young age, he enjoyed reading ‘World Book Encyclopedia’ for long hours. From eighth grade onwards, he transferred to a university prep school, ‘Randolph School’.
At the age of 16, he joined Alabama’s ‘Auburn University’ from where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance.
He then attained a master’s degree in finance from ‘University of Alabama’ while teaching at two universities.
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In 1994, Jimmy Wales shifted to Chicago and took up a job as a futures and options trader at ‘Chicago Options Associates’.
By 1997, the advancements in the Internet had completely fascinated him and he quit his job to start his own company.
In 1998 (1996)1, he and his partners, Tim Shell and Michael Davis, started ‘Bomis’, a website that was targeted towards male users. It gave information on sporting activities, automobiles, women and provided explicit content.
‘Bomis’ was heavily criticized for its content and was regarded unsuccessful. But it gave him the necessary capital for his next venture.
Jimmy Wales met his next business partner, Larry Sanger, as a fellow-follower of ‘Ayn Rand Philosophy Discussion List’, where Sanger was a moderator.
In March 2000, the duo launched ‘Nupedia’, a free online encyclopedia whose content was contributed by experts and scholars. It was then peer-reviewed and finally vetted by Sanger, who was the editor-in-chief.
He found the peer-review process lacking and a slow one, and began looking for an alternative, which he found in the concept of ‘wiki’ that was introduced to him by a programmer, Ben Kovitz.
On January 15, 2001, he and Sanger launched the ‘wiki’ version of ‘Nupedia’ called ‘Wikipedia’, which became very successful among users, very fast.
In 2002, he started ‘Wikimedia Foundation’ (WMF), a non-profit organization and transferred all his controlling powers of ‘Wikipedia’ to it after the departure of Sanger earlier in the year due to lack of funding from ‘Bomis’.
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By 2003, he had decided to keep ‘Wikipedia’ free of funding by means of advertising revenue and open to all.
In 2004, he and fellow ‘WMF’ board member, Angela Beesley, founded a for-profit company ‘Wikia’, which is essentially a web-hosting service for sites created using the ‘wiki’ model.
In 2005, he conducted extensive edits to his own ‘Wikipedia’ page, a practice that is heavily denounced on the website. He became a board member at a provider of wiki technology to corporates called ‘Socialtext’.
In 2006, he stepped down as CEO of ‘Wikia’ but became a board member at another non-profit organization ‘Creative Commons’.
In 2008, a former employee of ‘WMF’ accused him of misusing ‘WMF’ funds for personal purposes.
In 2012, he reportedly advised the UK authorities on making academic research freely available online.
In 2014, he was part of a landmark case of ‘Google v. Gonzalez’ pertaining to privacy laws.
In 2017, he announced the launch of ‘WikiTribune’, a free online publication aimed at fighting fake news.
In 2019, he reportedly started a social network free of advertisements called ‘WT:Social’.
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Awards & Achievements
In 2005, ‘Harvard Law School’s’ ‘Berkman Centre for Internet and Society’ offered him a fellowship.
In 2008, Jimmy Wales was the co-chair at ‘World Economic Forum’ and recipient of ‘The 2008 Global Brand Icon of the Year’ award.
In 2011, he received the prestigious ‘Gottlieb Duttweiler Prize' and several honorary degrees from universities in America and abroad.
In 2013, he received the ‘UNESCO Niels Bohr Medal’.
In 2014, he was the co-recipient of the million-dollar ‘Mohammed bin Rashid Knowledge Award’.
In 2015, he was awarded the ‘Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service’.
In 2016, he received the honorary citizenship of the Italian region of Esino Lario.
In 2017, he received the ‘President’s Medal’ from the ‘British Academy’ for development of ‘Wikipedia’.
Family & Personal Life
In 1986, Jimmy Wales married Pamela Green in Alabama who worked with him at a grocery store during his college years. In 1993, they got a divorce.
In 1997, he married Christine Rohan, in Florida, who he met while working in Chicago. They had a daughter together.
In 2008, Jimmy and Christine got divorced and he had a short relationship with a political columnist, Rachel Marsden, that year.
In 2012, he married his third wife, Kate Garvey, in London. They met at Davos, Switzerland. They have two daughters. He currently lives in London with his family.