Needham began his undergraduate studies at the University of Cambridge in 1953, graduating with a B.A. in 1956 in mathematics and philosophy. His Ph.D. thesis was on applications of digital computers to the automatic classification and retrieval of documents. He worked on a variety of key computing projects in security, operating systems, computer architecture (capability systems) and local area networks.
Among his theoretical contributions is the development of the Burrows-Abadi-Needham logic for authentication, generally known as the BAN logic. His Needham-Schroeder (coinvented with Michael Schroeder) security protocol forms the basis of the Kerberos authentication and key exchange system. He also codesigned the TEA and XTEA encryption algorithms.
He joined Cambridge's Computer Laboratory, then called the Mathematical Laboratory, in 1962, became head of the laboratory in 1980, was made a professor in 1981 and remained with the laboratory until his retirement in 1995. Needham then set up Microsoft's UK-based Research Laboratory in 1997. He was also one of the founding Fellows of Wolfson College, Cambridge.
Needham was elected to the Royal Society in 1985, became a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1993 and received a CBE for his contributions to computing in 2001. He also was a longtime and respected member of the International Association for Cryptologic Research and the IEEE Computer Society Technical Committee on Security and Privacy. He was made a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery in 1994.
Roger Needham Award
The British Computer Society, in 2004, established an annual Roger Needham Award in Needham's honour. A £5000 prize is presented to an individual for making "a distinguished research contribution in computer science by a UK based researcher within ten years of their PhD." The award is funded by Microsoft Research. The winner of the prize has an opportunity to give a public lecture. A list of previous recipients follows.
- 2004 Jane Hillston on Tuning Systems: From Composition to Performance
- 2005 Ian Horrocks on Ontologies and the Semantic Web
- 2007 Mark Handley on Evolving the Internet: Challenges, Opportunities and Consequences
- 2006 Andrew Fitzgibbon on Computer Vision & the Geometry of Nature
- 2008 Wenfei Fan on A Revival of Data Dependencies for Improving Data Quality
- Information about Roger Needham provided by his wife
- Obit: Roger Needham, The Register, March 2, 2003
- Roger Needham Dies, Business Weekly, March 3, 2003
- Roger Needham, Computer Security Expert, Dies at 68, The New York Times, March 6, 2003
- Microsoft's Needham dies from cancer, The Seattle Times, March 6, 2003
- Speech presenting Needham with an honorary degree, Loughborough University, July 13, 2001