Born in Scheveningen, Smit was educated at Vinehall School, East Sussex and Cranbrook School, Kent, in England, and studied archaeology and anthropology at Durham. He worked as an archaeologist before taking an unexpected leap into the music business, working as both a song-writer 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 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. 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 bestselling environment book of the century to date.
Smit was appointed 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. 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".
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.
In the early 21st century, Smit became a Social Enterprise Ambassador. 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.
Smit was appointed Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in January 2011 in recognition of his work at the Lost Gardens and the Eden Project. The award was made substantive, allowing Smit to use the title "Sir", in June 2012.
Portraits of Smit
The National Portrait Gallery collection has two photographs of Tim Smit from 2002. In 2008, Smit agreed to sit for sculptor Jon Edgar in Fowey as part of his Environmental series, and a terracotta head exists.
- Vinehall School Website, Famous Vines "". Retrieved on 3 March 2009.
- "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 2010-07-28.
- Jeff Gill (October 7, 2003). "Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran Award Lecture - Summary" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-07-28.
- "Business television show: Celebrity entrepreneurs on what it takes to succeed" (video) Retrieved 2009-10-06
- Tim Smit's Social Ambassador profile
- "Honorary knighthood for Eden Project boss". BBC News (BBC). 20 January 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
- The London Gazette: . 16 June 2012.
- Tim Smit - A new eden talk at the Royal Society
- BBC Four profile of Tim Smit
- Tim Smit: Garden of Wales is a National Treasure
- Social Enterprise Coalition
- Eden Project website profile of Tim Smit
- Tim Smit recalls his appearance on This Is Your Life
- profile/interview of Smit by Fran Monks; How to Make a Difference