Fwd: Roger Needham has passed away

Joseph S. Barrera III joseph@barrera.org
Mon, 03 Mar 2003 11:36:58 -0800

From: Rick Rashid
Sent: Sun 3/2/2003 1:30 PM
To: Research Division (FULL); Executive Staff and Direct Reports
Cc: Paul O'Beirne (HR); Kim Davis (Waggener Edstrom);
nathanm@intven.com; Terri Watson Rashid
Subject: Roger Needham has passed away

It saddens me to report that Roger Needham, Managing Director and
Founder of Microsoft Research Cambridge, has passed away.  He died
peacefully in his home Friday evening. He will be deeply missed both by
those of us in Microsoft who knew him and by the entire computer science

Roger's funeral will be private.

Just two weeks ago, Microsoft Research sponsored an event celebrating
Roger's 50 years in Cambridge and 5 years with Microsoft.  The highlight
of the event was a presentation to Roger of a book written in his honor
by dozens of the world's top computer scientists. That volume was a
labor of love, friendship and deep admiration for the impact Roger has
had on the field and on so many of us in it.  I include, below, a copy
of the foreword I wrote for that book that talks about Roger and
chronicles his accomplishments.

Roger loved Microsoft and loved the laboratory that he had created. His
wife, Karen Spark Jones, asked that I include in this notice the
following note to the people of MRL Cambridge:

		For MRL Cambridge staff, from Karen Sparck Jones

		I would just like to say that I know that Roger was so happy to work
		with all of you, appreciated all your efforts, and just thought you
		are all doing a great job. He knew that a good lab with the sort of
		high reputation that yours has is all owing to the contributions its
		staff make.

I last met with Roger a little less than two weeks ago. He was in frail
health but mentally sharp and the conversation was focused on MSR
business and the future of the laboratory in Cambridge.  I feel
privileged to have had that once last chance to tell Roger how proud I
was of his accomplishments and to thank him on behalf of Microsoft.

Looking forward, we are fortunate to have a strong management team in
place in Cambridge that can see MSR Cambridge through its next phase of
growth and change.

I have asked Andrew Herbert to step up to the position of Managing
Director of Microsoft Research Cambridge and he has accepted. Andrew has
a long and distinguished history in Cambridge going back to his 1970's
work on networks and distributed computing with Roger Needham and
Maurice Wilkes. He joined Microsoft in January, 2001 as Assistant
Director working with Roger and has since managed a number of projects
in the area of computer systems and networking.

I have the greatest confidence that Andrew, with the strong support of
his Assistant Directors Chris Bishop and Luca Cardelli (themselves two
of the most distinguished researchers in their fields), will continue
the tradition of excellence Roger began and take MSR Cambridge to new
levels of accomplishment.



Roger Needham

By Rick Rashid
Senior Vice President, Microsoft Research

I first encountered Roger Needham almost 20 years ago while lecturing in
an advanced course on distributed systems being held in Glasgow during
the summer of 1983.  I must admit that I felt just a bit out of place
lecturing alongside the likes of Gerald Le Lann, Jim Mitchell and Roger
Needham.  Roger had become head of Cambridge University's fabled
Computer Laboratory just three years earlier-about the same time I had
received my Ph.D.

When I heard Roger lecture for the first time I was taken aback by his
remarkable and very unusual speaking style. I've since seen it described
in the press as "deliberate and thoughtful" and it is all of that.
Listening to a lecture in computer science can sometimes make you feel
as though you are chasing after the words trying to piece together the
speaker's meaning.  When Roger spoke I found myself hanging on each word
wondering with great anticipation what would come next. The wait was
usually worthwhile. That summer in 1983 I discovered to my delight
Roger's keen insight, dry wit and ability to turn the English language
into his personal plaything.

	An improvement is something your program will not work with and a bug 
fix is something it will not work without.-Roger Needham

Looking back, I still find it hard to believe that 20 years later I
would be running a large research organization for Microsoft and would
have the privilege of working with Roger on a daily basis as Managing
Director of our Cambridge research laboratory.  It has been quite a

Early career

Roger Needham was born in 1935.  He received a scholarship to study
mathematics at Cambridge University and arrived on campus in 1953. Roger
received his B. A. in Mathematics and Moral Science (Philosophy) in 1956
and his Diploma in Numerical Analysis and Automatic Computing in 1957,
in the last year of the Edsac 1 computer.

I've heard the story told that while studying for his Ph.D. Roger lived
in a caravan with his wife Karen Spärck Jones with whom he also
collaborated on several papers. The reason for their unorthodox living
arrangements was that while completing his Ph.D. Roger and Karen also
undertook the building of their own house. Despite this rather strenuous
side occupation, Roger completed his PhD at Cambridge in 1961. This was
on automatic classification and information retrieval, exciting new and
interdisciplinary areas. At the time, Roger was working with the
Cambridge Language Research Unit, which was investigating machine
translation, automated retrieval, and the like. He and joined the
University's Mathematical Laboratory-what is now known as the Computer
Laboratory - in 1962.

Although his Ph.D. was on an applications topic, Roger's career has been
that of a classic - almost prototypical - "systems" computer scientist.
It is hard to pin him down to a single area. Roger has made significant
contributions to areas such as operating systems, networking,
distributed systems, computer security and multimedia. In an interview
for SIGSoft's Software Engineering Notes published in January, 2001,
Roger is quoted as saying:

	I regard myself as a systems person, not an OS person, nor a
communications systems person. I think all three systems require the
same kind of skills.

During his career Roger has had a knack for apparently being at the
right place at the right time, working with the right collaborators and
hitting on the right idea. Roger is fond of saying that:

	Serendipity is looking for a needle in a hay stack and finding the 
farmer's daughter.

The reality is that his consistent contributions have had nothing to do
with serendipity but rather his personal talents and ability to draw to
himself talented people and find ways to inspire and motivate them.

The first major system Roger worked on following his Ph.D. was TITAN.
The Laboratory, under Maurice Wilkes, was providing the software for
hardware built by Ferranti (subsequently ICT/ICL). TITAN was the
earliest computer system to employ cache memory and its operating system
was the first multi-access system written outside the US to go into
public use.  Roger first worked with David Wheeler on design automation,
and then became involved in building the operating system. One of
Roger's enduring innovations was the use of a one way function to
protect its password file - something virtually every modern computer
system does today. The TITAN file system also introduced the notion of
full backup and restore and the ability to do incremental backups.

Computing in the 1960s and early 1970s was a "full contact sport". In
keeping with his "systems" image - Roger was not above doing anything
that might be required to keep his operating system running. In addition
to developing TITAN's software, he enjoys telling the story of the
miserable day he sat in an air conditioning unit pouring water from a
bucket over a pile of bricks to cool the system and keep it running for

As a member of staff. Roger also began to teach, initially for the
Diploma and later, when Cambridge accepted Computer Science as a degree
subject, to undergraduates; and he began to take PhD students, now to be
met round the world.

CAP, Rings and the Cambridge Model Distributed System

Building on lessons learned from Titan, in the late 1960s Roger began to
concentrate on protection - providing fine-grained access control to
resources between users, between users and the operating system and
between operating system modules  From the early 1970s he worked with
Maurice Wilkes and David Wheeler on the design and construction of the
CAP computer, an experimental machine with memory protection based on
capabilities implemented in hardware.  Once the machine was running in
1975, Roger then led the development of the machine's operating system
and was responsible for many innovations in computer security.  The CAP
project received a British Computer Society Technical Award in 1977.  As
the Internet moves toward adoption of a common web services
infrastructure there is renewed interest in capability based access
control today.

Working with Maurice Wilkes, David Wheeler, Andy Hopper and others,
Roger was also involved in the construction of the Cambridge Ring (1974)
and its successor the Cambridge Fast Ring (1980).  The 10 megabit per
second Cambridge Ring put the Computer Laboratory at the forefront of
high speed local area networking and distributed computing research. The
Cambridge Fast Ring ran at 100 megabits per second - still the typical
speed of local computer networks more than 20 years later - and helped
to inspire the creation of the ATM switching networks in use today.

The software developed to run on top of the Cambridge Ring was no less
remarkable than the hardware. The Cambridge Model Distributed System on
which Roger worked with Andrew Herbert and others was an innovative
distributed software environment built to run on top of the Cambridge
Ring.  It included computing components such as a Processor Bank, File
Server, Authentication Server, Boot Server etc. and was an early model
for what we would today call "thin client computing."

This line of work on distributed systems was taken further in the 1980s
in the Universe and Unison projects, where independent Cambridge Rings
that sat at several UK sites were interconnected by satellite (Universe)
and high speed point-to-point links (Unison) to demonstrate wide area
distributed computing. Both rings were used to do real-time voice and
video applications (the Cambridge "Island" project) - another "first".

There were several commercial and academic deployments of Cambridge
Rings spun out from the Computer Laboratory.  It is believed that a
derivative of the Cambridge Ring still runs part of the railway
signalling system at London's Liverpool Street Station!

Head of Department, Computer Laboratory

Roger had been promoted Reader in Computer Systems in 1973, and was made
Professor in 1981. When Maurice Wilkes retired in 1980, Roger became
Head of Department, In addition to his personal scientific achievements.
Roger oversaw the growth and maturation of Cambridge University's
Computer Laboratory during an important part of its history.  When he
took over as Head of Department, the Laboratory had a teaching and
research staff of 10 and just over 40 Ph.D. students.  Ten years later,
in 1990, the teaching and research staff had grown to 27 and the number
of Ph.D. students had more than doubled.  Roger is quoted as referring
to this as the Laboratory's

	"halcyon days" - an expanding Laboratory and no external

Though the Laboratory's strength was in systems, and Roger himself was a
"systems" scientist, he encouraged new areas to develop, for example,
formal methods, and language and information processing.  One topic of
research Roger particularly developed at Cambridge was the intersection
of multimedia systems and networking. As a result, Cambridge became one
of the first research laboratories in the world where teleconferencing
and video mail became regular tools for research.

Roger continued in the 1980s and 90s to be interested in all aspects of
computer systems, but was especially concerned with security. He
participated in every one the ACM Symposia on Operating Systems
Principles, and is believed to be the only person to have achieved a
100% attendance record.  With Ross Anderson, he has been involved in
Cambridge events including a security programme at the Newton Institute
and Protocols Workshops. He has recently combined his intellectual and
(left wing) political interests as a Trustee of the Foundation for
Information Policy Research. He has also emphasised, in a related
spirit, in his 2002 Saul Gorn Lecture at the University of Pennsylvania
and Clifford Paterson Lecture at the Royal Society, that doing system
security properly is as much about people as about machines.

Referring to Roger's impact on the Computer Laboratory on the occasion
of his Honorary Doctorate from the University of Twente in 1996, Sape
Mullender wrote:

	Needham works as a catalyst. When he is around, systems research gets 
more focus and more vision. He brings out the best in the people around 
him. This helps to explain why, for as long as I can remember, the 
Cambridge University Computer Laboratory has been among the best systems 
research laboratories in the world. This is recognized even by 
Americans, although their national pride doesn't always allow them to
admit that MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, Cornell, and the rest of them, have
something to learn abroad, in Cambridge.

Public Service

Roger began his public service career in the 1960s as a member of the
Science Research Council's Computing Science Committee. His public
service activities ramified in the 80s and 90s, extending into all kinds
of government and other boards and committees. He says he has found some
of them fun - the Alvey Committee, for example, had the opportunity to
drive a large national computing research programme; some were
interesting, like the Research Council's Individual Merit Promotion
Panel; and some were keeping a particular show on the road. He has felt
the obligation to do these things; he has also enjoyed learning and
deploying the skills required to do them effectively. His most recent
challenge has been chairing a Royal Society Working Party on
intellectual property.

Roger was able to exploit these skills, and what he had learnt about the
University while Head of Department, as Pro Vice-Chancellor from
1996-1998, with a remit on the research side of the University's
operations. This had all kinds of interesting side-effects, like
chairing Electors to Chairs across the University and so getting
snapshots of what's hot in pharmacology, or economic history, or

The list of awards and honors Roger has received for both his personal
achievements and his contributions to Cambridge and to the field is
impressive including being named Fellow of the British Computer Society,
Fellow of the Royal Society, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering
and Fellow of the ACM.  Roger was also awarded the (Commander of the
order of the British Empire) for his services to Computer Science in

Working with industry

One constant of Roger's career has been his consistent connection to
industrial research and development.  He was a Director of Cambridge
Consultants in the 1960s, and for ten years on the Board of Computer
Technology Ltd. He was a consultant to Xerox PARC from 1977-84 and to
Digital's System Research Center from 1984-97. From 1995-97 he was a
member of the international advisory board for Hitachi's Advanced
Research Laboratory, and on the Board of UKERNA from its inception until

Spin-offs from the Computer Laboratory had begun in the 1970s,
contributing to the ``Cambridge Phenomenon''. When Roger was Head of
Department he fostered these connections, welcoming the idea of a
Laboratory Supporters Club and becoming one of the "Godfathers'" for
Cambridge entrepreneurs.

Some of Roger's most famous papers were conceived during consulting
trips and sabbaticals working at industrial research laboratories.  The
secure authentication system he described in his 1978 paper with Mike
Schroeder of Xerox PARC became the basis for systems such as Kerberos -
still in use today - and represented a turning point in distributed
system security research. Working with Digital Equipment's Mike Burrows
and Martin Abadi, he created the first formalism for the investigation
of security protocols to come into wide use (also called the BAN logic,
named for its authors). Roger also made contributions to Xerox's
Grapevine project and Digital's AutoNet project.

Roger valued his longstanding connections with these company research
centres. He was also able to observe the business of running a research
centre - how, and also how not, to - at first hand.

In 1995 Roger was asked in an interview how he viewed the relationship
between academic work and industrial work in computer science:

	If there wasn't an industry concerned with making and using computers 
the subject wouldn't exist. It's not like physics - physics
was made by God, but computer science was made by man. It's there
because the industry's there.

I didn't realize it at the time but I would soon become the beneficiary
of Roger's positive attitude toward working with industry.

By the mid 90s, too, Roger was finding university life, squeezed between
a rampant audit culture and a lack of money, less and less satisfying.
Doing something new without either of these features, and with positive
advantages of its own, looked very attractive.

Microsoft Research Cambridge

My personal history intersected again with Roger's almost 14 years after
my first meeting with him in 1983. In 1991 I left Carnegie Mellon
University where I had been teaching for 12 years and joined Microsoft
to start its basic research laboratory: Microsoft Research. From the
beginning, Nathan Myhrvold, who had hired me as the first lab director,
had contemplated creating a laboratory in Europe to complement the one
we were building in the United States.  For the first 5 years of
Microsoft Research's growth our Redmond facility was small enough that
our first priority was to build it up to critical mass.  By 1996 we had
grown to over 100 researchers and it was time to consider expanding
outside the US.

It was in the fall of 1996 as we were considering European expansion
that we learned through the grapevine that Roger Needham was willing to
consider taking the position of Director of that lab.  When I first
heard the news I was tremendously excited.  I couldn't imagine a better
person to anchor this new venture.

In December, Nathan Myhrvold, Chuck Thacker, Roger Needham and I all met
for a day in a hotel near the San Francisco airport to talk about
starting the lab and by the end of the meeting it was clear we were
moving forward.  By April of 1997 the lab was announced with much
fanfare and in October of 1997 Microsoft Research Cambridge officially
"opened" with Roger Needham as its Managing Director.

In its first temporary space in the middle of Cambridge, the Microsoft
laboratory was close to the Computer Laboratory. Their two new buildings
in west Cambridge are also close together, striking additions to the
growing West Cambridge campus, and with their people interacting as
Roger wanted.

In a 1999 interview for the book "Inside Out, -Microsoft- In Our Own
Words", Roger talked about the new lab he had started:

	I had a complete restart of my career at age 62, when I was asked to 
open MSR at Cambridge. I asked Rick what he wanted me to do. He
said, "Hire the best people and help them to do what they are good at".
Nathan Myhrvold added, "If every project you start succeeds, you have

	One of the most important rules of this research game is that unless 
you can get some of the best people in the field, you should not

	I spent 35 years at Cambridge surrounded by brilliant people, and I 
rarely had sufficient money to hire them. That is why I enjoy this
job so much.

Just as he was able to build the strength of the Computer Laboratory
during the 1980s and 1990s, Roger did a stellar job hiring "some of the
best people in the field" and in so doing turning Microsoft Research
Cambridge into one of the premier institutions in Europe and a strong
engine for innovation within Microsoft. Technology from Microsoft
Research Cambridge is now embedded in many of Microsoft's key products
including Visual Studio, Microsoft Office and Microsoft Windows. Coming
full circle, one of the earliest Cambridge technologies incorporated
into Microsoft's products was an information retrieval engine-the field
in which Roger received his Ph.D. nearly 40 years earlier.

In celebration of Roger Needham

This volume celebrates Roger's 50 years at Cambridge and 5 years at
Microsoft and the tremendous impact he has had on so many people in our
field.  In it you will find a variety of work contributed by some of the
top computer scientists in the world - all of whom have worked with
Roger or been touched or influenced by Roger's work.  This volume has
been a labor of love and friendship and deep admiration.  Enjoy.

Rick Rashid
February 2003