Tim Smit

Sir Timothy Bartel Smit KBE (born 25 September 1954)[1] is a Dutch-born British businessman, famous for his work on the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden Project, also the Charlestown Shipwreck & Treasure Centre, also in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom.

Early life

Tim Smit was born in Scheveningen, the son of airline pilot Jan Smit[2] and his English wife. He was educated in England at Vinehall School,[3] East Sussex, and Cranbrook School, Kent, before going on to study archaeology and anthropology at Durham (Hatfield College).


He worked as an archaeologist before taking an unexpected leap into the music business, working as both a songwriter and producer receiving seven platinum and gold discs.

In 1987 he moved with his family to Cornwall and became involved with Rob Poole, John Nelson and The Lost Gardens of Heligan. During his time at Heligan, Smit wrote a popular book about the project.

Later he dreamt up and then created the Eden Project, near St Austell, an £80 million initiative to build two transparent biomes in an old china clay pit near the village of Bodelva. The biomes contain different eco-climates; rainforest and Mediterranean. The outside area is also described as a biome and features areas such as "Wild Cornwall". Eden aims to educate people about environmental matters and encourages a greater understanding and empathy with these matters. Smit raised the needed funds and was the driving force, pulling the team of people together to build what has been described as 'the eighth wonder of the world' ; the site design was by Nicholas Grimshaw. The Eden Project is said to have contributed over £1 billion into the Cornish economy.[4]

Smit's book about the creation of the Eden Project, 'Eden', was first published in 2001 and updated on the 10th anniversary of the opening in March 2011. It is the best-selling environment book of the century to date.

Smit was appointed an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2002 New Year Honours and awarded the Kilgerran Award of the Foundation for Science and Technology in 2003.[5][6] In 2006 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Design degree by the University of the West of England "in recognition of his outstanding achievements in promoting the understanding and practise of the responsible management of the vital relationship between plants, people and resources, which have made a major contribution regionally, nationally and internationally to sustainable development, tourism, architecture and landscape architecture".

Smit has been outspoken in his views on issues such as social enterprise and entrepreneurship. In a 2008 interview, he said:

Britain is crap at being entrepreneurial because (a) it's a risk averse country, and (b) the stigma of failure is so high that if you fail you're considered to be a loser. Entrepreneurism is a word that has been stolen by people who don't understand it. The truth is that people who are entrepreneurial take risks, and risk is something that is un-British, and if you're successful with it they'll hate you for it.[7]

In the early 21st century, Smit became a Social Enterprise Ambassador.[8] Social enterprises use a business to address a social or environmental need. The Social Enterprise Ambassadors programme is led by the Social Enterprise Coalition and is supported by the Office of the Third Sector, part of the UK government's Cabinet Office.

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 2001 when he was surprised by Michael Aspel at the Eden Project

Smit was appointed Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in January 2011 in recognition of his services to public engagement with science.[9] In May 2012, the award was made substantive when he became a British citizen, allowing Smit to use the title "Sir".[4][10]

In November 2016, Smit was awarded an honorary Doctor of Education degree by Bournemouth University.[11]


In August 2014, Smit was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[12]

Prior to the 2015 UK general election, he was one of several celebrities who endorsed the parliamentary candidacy of the Green Party's Caroline Lucas.[13]

Portraits of Smit

The National Portrait Gallery collection has two photographs of Tim Smit from 2002.[14] In 2008, Smit agreed to sit for sculptor Jon Edgar in Fowey as part of his Environmental series, and a terracotta head exists.


  1. "Birthdays". The Guardian. Guardian News & Media. 25 September 2014. p. 43.
  2. Adam Nicolson (24 February 2001). "Brave new worlds". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2009/oct/27/teaching-awards-eden-project
  4. "Tim Smit KBE, Sir - Personally Speaking Bureau". Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  5. "Re-creating the Garden of Eden" (PDF). FST Journal. London: The Foundation for Science and Technology. 18 (2): 6–7. December 2003. ISSN 1475-1704. Retrieved 28 July 2010.
  6. Jeff Gill (7 October 2003). "Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran Award Lecture – Summary" (PDF). Retrieved 28 July 2010.
  7. "Business television show: Celebrity entrepreneurs on what it takes to succeed" (video) Archived 29 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 6 October 2009
  8. Tim Smit's Social Ambassador profile Archived 12 May 2010 at the UK Government Web Archive
  9. "Honorary knighthood for Eden Project boss". BBC News. BBC. 20 January 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  10. "No. 60173". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 June 2012. p. 32.
  11. "Faculty of Management celebrates its new 2016 graduates". Bournemouth University. 9 November 2016. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  12. "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories | Politics". theguardian.com. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  13. Elgot, Jessica (24 April 2015). "Celebrities sign statement of support for Caroline Lucas – but not the Greens". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
  14. http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/saction.php?search=ss&firstRun=true&sText=tim+smit
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