Jimmy Wales: The Man Behind Wikipedia

Jimmy Wales: The Man Behind Wikipedia

Jimmy Wales is an American-British internet entrepreneur, webmaster, and former financial trader. He is best known as the co-founder of Wikipedia, the online non-profit encyclopedia that anyone can edit. He is also the founder of Fandom, a wiki hosting service that allows fans to create communities around their favorite topics. In this blog post, we will explore the life and achievements of Jimmy Wales, and how he changed the world with his vision of free knowledge.

Early Life and Education

Jimmy Wales was born on August 7, 1966, in Huntsville, Alabama. He grew up in a family of educators: his mother and grandmother ran a small private school, where he received his early education. He was interested in reading and learning from a young age, and was especially fascinated by encyclopedias. He once said: “I just thought that it was the coolest thing ever that there were these books with all kinds of information in them.”

Wales attended Randolph School, a university-preparatory school in Huntsville. He graduated in 1984 and enrolled at Auburn University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in finance in 1986. He then pursued a master’s degree in finance at the University of Alabama, which he completed in 1987. He also studied for a PhD in finance at Indiana University, but left before finishing his dissertation to take a job in Chicago.

Career and Achievements

Wales moved to Chicago in 1994 and worked as a research director at Chicago Options Associates, a futures and options trading firm. He made a lot of money by applying his knowledge of finance and mathematics to the markets, but he was not satisfied with his career. He said: “I always wanted to do something more creative.”

In 1996, Wales and two partners founded Bomis, a web portal that featured adult content and entertainment. Bomis provided the initial funding for Wales’ first online project: Nupedia, a free peer-reviewed encyclopedia that was launched in 2000. Nupedia was edited by experts and aimed to create high-quality articles that could rival traditional encyclopedias. However, the project was slow and cumbersome, and produced only a few hundred articles in its first year.

Wales realized that he needed a more collaborative and open approach to create an online encyclopedia. He was inspired by the concept of wiki, a website that allows anyone to edit its content. On January 15, 2001, he registered the domain name and launched Wikipedia with Larry Sanger, who was the editor-in-chief of Nupedia. Wikipedia was initially intended to be a feeder project for Nupedia, but it soon surpassed it in popularity and growth.

Wikipedia became a global phenomenon, attracting millions of users and contributors who wrote articles on various topics in different languages. Wales became the promoter and spokesman of Wikipedia, as well as its benevolent leader. He said: “My role isn’t so much to make editorial decisions as to try to set an example for our community.”

In 2003, Wales founded the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization that operates Wikipedia and other wiki-based projects such as Wiktionary, Wikibooks, Wikinews, Wikiquote, Wikisource, Wikimedia Commons, Wikispecies, Wikiversity, Wikivoyage, Wikidata, and MediaWiki. Wales serves as the chair emeritus of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, holding its board-appointed “community founder” seat.

In 2004, Wales co-founded Wikia (now Fandom) with Angela Beesley Starling, a former member of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees. Fandom is a for-profit wiki hosting service that allows users to create wikis on any topic they are passionate about. Fandom hosts over 300,000 wikis on topics ranging from video games to movies to books to sports to lifestyle.

In addition to Wikipedia and Fandom, Wales has worked on other online projects such as Wikia Search (a search engine that was discontinued in 2009), WikiTribune (a news website that was launched in 2017), and WT Social (a social network that was launched in 2019).

Wales has received numerous awards and honors for his contributions to the internet and society. He was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2006, one of Foreign Policy magazine’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers” in 2010, one of Forbes magazine’s “The World’s Most Powerful People” in 2018, and one of Business Insider’s “100 People Transforming Business” in 2020. He has also received honorary degrees from several universities around the world.

Personal Life

Wales has been married three times and has three daughters. His first marriage was to Pamela Green in 1986; they divorced in 1993. His second marriage was to Christine Rohan in 1997; they divorced in 2011. His third marriage was to Kate Garvey in 2012; they live together in London with their two daughters.

Wales is an atheist and a libertarian. He supports free speech, individual rights, market economy, and limited government intervention. He is also an avid traveler and reader.


Jimmy Wales is one of the most influential internet entrepreneurs of our time. He co-founded Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that democratized knowledge and empowered people around the world. He also founded Fandom, a wiki hosting service that enabled fans to create communities around their interests. He is a visionary leader who has inspired millions of people to contribute to the common good.


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