Jimmy Donal Wales was born in Huntsville, Alabama, in the U.S. on August 7, 1966. He attended Randolph School, a university-preparatory school, then earned bachelor's degree in Finance from Auburn University. Wales then entered the Ph.D. finance program at the University of Alabama before leaving with a master's degree to enter the Ph.D. finance program at Indiana University.
While in graduate school, he taught at two universities, but left before completing a Ph.D. in order to take a job in finance and later worked as the research director of a Chicago futures and options firm trading firm in Chicago, Illinois. Inspired by the remarkable initial public offering of Netscape in 1995, he decided to become an Internet entrepreneur and, in 1996, founded the web portal Bomis, with two partners, a male-oriented web portal featuring entertainment and adult content.
The company would provide the initial funding for the peer-reviewed free encyclopedia Nupedia (2000–2003)and its successor, Wikipedia. The intent behind Nupedia was to have expert-written entries on a variety of topics, and to sell advertising alongside the entries in order to make profit. The project was characterized by an extensive peer-review process designed to make its articles of a quality comparable to that of professional encyclopedias.
In 2001, together with Larry Sanger and others, Wales helped launch Wikipedia, a free, open content encyclopedia that enjoyed rapid growth and popularity, and as Wikipedia's public profile grew, he became the project's promoter and spokesman. He is historically cited as a co-founder of Wikipedia, though he has disputed the "co-" designation, declaring himself the sole founder. Wales serves on the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit charitable organization he helped establish to operate Wikipedia, holding its board-appointed "community founder" seat. In 2004, he co-founded Wikia, a for-profit wiki-hosting service.
Wales has been married twice and has a daughter with his second wife. At the age of 20, Wales married Pam, a co-worker at a grocery-store in Alabama. He met his second wife, Christine Rohan, through a friend in Chicago while she was working as a steel trader for Mitsubishi. The couple were married in Monroe County, Florida in March 1997, and had a daughter before separating. Wales had a brief relationship with Canadian conservative columnist Rachel Marsden in 2008 that began after Marsden contacted Wales about her Wikipedia biography. Since about 2009, Wales has been in a relationship with Kate Garvey, Tony Blair's former diary secretary, whom he met in Davos, Switzerland.
He has been awarded and Honored time to time: In Mid-2005 — Wales was appointed as a member of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. Same year in October 3 Wales joined the Board of Directors of Socialtext, a provider of wiki technology to businesses. In 2006 Wales joined the Board of Directors of the non-profit organization Creative Commons. On May 8, 2006 Wales was listed in the "Scientists & Thinkers" section of the 100 influential people special edition of Time magazine. On June 3, 2006 Wales received an honorary degree of doctor of laws from Knox College. Same year on May 3 The Electronic Frontier Foundation awarded him a Pioneer Award. And in the same year 2006 Wales was appointed to the advisory board of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence. On January 23, 2007 Forbes magazine ranked Wales twelfth in its first annual "The Web Celebs 25". Same year 2007 Wales was recognized by the World Economic Forum as one of the 'Young Global Leaders' of 2007.
2008 was the year of awards and honors for him - In May 2008 Wales co-chaired the World Economic Forum on the Middle East 2008 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. In 2008 only CORUM awarded him The Global Brand Icon of the Year Award for 2008. 2008 — Wales accepted on behalf of the Wikimedia project the Quadriga award of Werkstatt Deutschland for A Mission of Enlightenment. In October 30, 2008 Wales was awarded the Business Process Award at the 7th Annual Innovation Awards and Summit by The Economist "for public collaboration as a form of product and content development."
In November 4, 2009 Wales was recognized with the Nokia Foundation annual award (2009) "for his contributions to the evolution of the World Wide Web as a participatory and truly democratic platform". In November 2009 Wales was awarded the Monaco Media Prize for enabling collaborative knowledge-seeking. In December 7, 2009 — Wales announced that he will be joining the New York City-based Hunch.com as Board Member and advisor.
April 8, 2010 Wales was honored as a Stuart Regen Visionary at New Museum in New York City. In May 21, 2010 Wales received an honorary degree of doctor of laws from Stevenson University. Wales said that this was the very first college commencement speech that he had delivered. In May 23, 2010 Wales received an honorary degree of doctor of humane letters from Amherst College.
In January 26, 2011 Wales was awarded the Gottlieb Duttweiler Prize worth 100,000 CHF in Zurich, Switzerland.