Roger Needham Died - from The Register

Bill Stewart bill.stewart at
Sun Mar 2 12:29:22 PST 2003

Obit: Roger Needham
By Guy Kewney,
Posted: 02/03/2003 at 12:13 GMT

Sadly, we record the death of Roger Needham, computer pioneer...

There isn't much more to say, except that the man who was the reason 
Microsoft set up its research centre in Cambridge, England, has had to lay 
down his life's work. Cancer ended a legend.

He once told me that it was his idea that Microsoft stopped spending money 
on patenting its research ideas, and instead, to make the results available 
to other researchers. I wish I'd known him long enough to have some other 
stories to pass on myself; he left a long legacy of people who attributed 
their inspiration to having worked with him.

Here's what his CV at Microsoft Research says:

Roger M Needham, born 1935, was in computing at Cambridge since 1956. His 
1961 PhD thesis was on the application of digital computers to problems of 
classification and grouping. In 1962 he joined the Computer Laboratory, 
then called the Mathematical Laboratory, and has been on the faculty since 
1963. He took a leading role in Cambridge projects in operating systems, 
time sharing systems, memory protection, local area networks, and 
distributed systems over the next twenty years.

Roger worked at intervals on a variety of topics in security, (his main 
research interest while with Microsoft) being particularly known for work 
with Schroeder on authentication protocols (1978) and with Burrows and 
Abadi on formalism for reasoning about them (1989).

Roger graduated from the University of Cambridge in Mathematics and 
Philosophy in 1956, and then took the Diploma in Numerical Analysis and 
Automatic Computing in 1957. He had been in computing at Cambridge ever 
since. He succeeded Maurice Wilkes as Head of the Computer Laboratory from 
1980 to 1995, was promoted Professor in 1981, elected to the Royal Society 
in 1985 and the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1993. He was appointed 
Pro-Vice-Chancellor in 1996.

I only met him a couple of times, both times when Microsoft was doing 
corporate hospitality to publicise the work it was doing in the Cambridge 
research facility. He was as knowledgeable as any rumour could have 
suggested; and as tolerant of an ignorant journalist as any academic could 
ever be. And I shall never get to know him, now.

Guy Kewney is the editor/publisher of Newswireless.Net


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