Steve Furber

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Steve Furber

Steve Furber.jpg
Steve Furber in 2009
Stephen Byram Furber

(1953-03-21) 21 March 1953 (age 66)[1]
Manchester,[2] England
EducationManchester Grammar School
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge (BA, MMath, PhD)[1][3]
Valerie Margaret Elliott (m. 1977)
Scientific career

Stephen Byram Furber CBE FRS FREng[5] (born 21 March 1953)[1] is ICL Professor of Computer Engineering in the School of Computer Science at the University of Manchester, UK.[6] After completing his education at the University of Cambridge (BA, MMath, PhD), he spent the 1980s at Acorn Computers, where he was a principal designer of the BBC Micro and the ARM 32-bit RISC microprocessor.[7] As of 2018, over 100 billion variants of the ARM processor have been manufactured, powering much of the world's mobile computing and embedded systems.[8][9][3]

In 1990, he moved to Manchester where he leads research into asynchronous systems, low-power electronics[10] and neural engineering, where the Spiking Neural Network Architecture (SpiNNaker) project is delivering a computer incorporating a million ARM processors optimised for computational neuroscience.[4][11][12][13][14]


Furber was educated at Manchester Grammar School[1] and represented the UK in the International Mathematical Olympiad in Hungary in 1970 winning a bronze medal.[15] He went on to study the Mathematical Tripos as an undergraduate student of St John's College, Cambridge, receiving a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Master of Mathematics (MMath - Part III of the Mathematical Tripos) degrees.[3] In 1978, he was appointed a Rolls-Royce research fellow in aerodynamics at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and was awarded a PhD in 1980 for research on the fluid dynamics of the Weis-Fogh principle[16] supervised by John Ffowcs Williams.[17][18][19]

Commercial career: Acorn, BBC Micro and ARM[edit]

From 1980 to 1990, Furber worked at Acorn Computers where he was a Hardware Designer and then Design Manager. He was a principal designer of the BBC Micro and the ARM microprocessor. In August 1990 he moved to the University of Manchester to become the ICL Professor of Computer Engineering and established the AMULET microprocessor research group.


Furber's main research interests are in Neural Networks, Networks on Chip and Microprocessors.[4] In 2003, Furber was a member of the EPSRC research cluster in biologically-inspired[20] novel computation. On 16 September 2004, he gave a speech on Hardware Implementations of Large-scale Neural Networks as part of the initiation activities of the Alan Turing Institute.

Furber's most recent project SpiNNaker,[21][22][23][24][25] is an attempt to build a new kind of computer that directly mimics the workings of the human brain. Spinnaker is an artificial neural network realised in hardware, a massively parallel processing system eventually designed to incorporate a million ARM processors.[26][27] The finished Spinnaker will model 1 per cent of the human brain's capability, or around 1 billion neurons. The Spinnaker project[28] aims amongst other things to investigate:

  • How can massively parallel computing resources accelerate our understanding of brain function?
  • How can our growing understanding of brain function point the way to more efficient parallel, fault-tolerant computation?

Furber believes that "significant progress in either direction will represent a major scientific breakthrough".[28] Furber's research interests include asynchronous systems, ultra-low-power processors for sensor networks, on-chip interconnect and globally asynchronous locally synchronous (GALS),[29] and neural systems engineering.[30][31][32][33]

His research has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC),[34] Royal Society[5] and European Research Council.[3]

Awards and honours[edit]

In February 1997, Furber was elected a Fellow of the British Computer Society. In 1998, he became a member of the European Working Group on Asynchronous Circuit Design (ACiD-WG). He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2002[5] and was Specialist Adviser to the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry into microprocessor technology.[citation needed]

Furber was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng),[1] the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 2005[citation needed] and a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (FIET).[when?] He is a Chartered Engineer (CEng).[when?] In September 2007 he was awarded the Faraday Medal and in 2010 he gave the Pinkerton Lecture.[citation needed]

Furber was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours[35][36] and was elected as one of the three laureates of Millennium Technology Prize in 2010 (with Richard Friend and Michael Grätzel), for development of ARM processor.[37] In 2012, Furber was made a Fellow of the Computer History Museum "for his work, with Sophie Wilson, on the BBC Micro computer and the ARM processor architecture."[38][39]

In 2004 he was awarded a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award.[5] In 2014, he was made a Distinguished Fellow at the British Computer Society (DFBCS) recognising his contribution to the IT profession and industry.[40] Furber's nomination for the Royal Society reads:

Furber was played by actor Sam Philips in the BBC Four documentary drama Micro Men,[42] first aired on 8 October 2009.

Personal life[edit]

Furber playing bass guitar.

Furber is married to Valerie Elliot with two daughters[1] and plays 6-string and bass guitar.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Anon (2015). "Furber, Prof. Stephen Byram". Who's Who. (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.43464. (subscription or UK public library membership required) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Brown, David (1 February 2010). "A Conversation with Steve Furber". Queue. Association for Computing Machinery. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d Steve Furber's Entry at ORCID
  4. ^ a b c d e Steve Furber publications indexed by Google Scholar Edit this at Wikidata
  5. ^ a b c d Anon (2002). "Professor Stephen Furber CBE FREng FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the website where:

    “All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.” --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 11 November 2016. Retrieved 9 March 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

  6. ^ "Prof Steve Furber CBE FRS FREng FBCS FIET CITP CEng - The University of Manchester".
  7. ^ Lean, Thomas (22 October 2012). "Steve Furber: developing ARM with no people and no money". British Library.
  8. ^ "Inside the numbers: 100 billion ARM-based chips".
  9. ^ "Enabling Mass IoT connectivity as Arm partners ship 100 billion chips".
  10. ^ Furber, Stephen B. (1989). VLSI RISC architecture and organization. New York: M. Dekker. ISBN 0-8247-8151-1.
  11. ^ Grier, D. A. (2014). "Steve Furber [Interviews]". IEEE Annals of the History of Computing. 36: 58. doi:10.1109/MAHC.2014.8.
  12. ^ ARM and its Partners talk about reaching the 50 Billion chip milestone on YouTube
  13. ^ Steve Furber publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  14. ^ National Life Stories, Professor Steve Furber Interviewed by Thomas Lean, British Library
  15. ^ Steve Furber's results at International Mathematical Olympiad
  16. ^ Furber, Stephen Byram (1980). Is the Weis-Fogh principle exploitable in turbomachines?. (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. doi:10.17863/CAM.11472. OCLC 500446535. EThOS
  17. ^ Steve Furber at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  18. ^ Furber, S. B.; Williams, J. E. F. (1979). "Is the Weis-Fogh principle exploitable in turbomachinery?". Journal of Fluid Mechanics. 94 (3): 519. Bibcode:1979JFM....94..519F. doi:10.1017/S0022112079001166.
  19. ^ Fitzpatrick, J. (2011). "An interview with Steve Furber". Communications of the ACM. 54 (5): 34. doi:10.1145/1941487.1941501.
  20. ^ Furber, S. (2006). "Living with Failure: Lessons from Nature?". Eleventh IEEE European Test Symposium (ETS'06). pp. 4–0. doi:10.1109/ETS.2006.28. ISBN 0-7695-2566-0.
  21. ^ Furber, S. B.; Galluppi, F.; Temple, S.; Plana, L. A. (2014). "The SpiNNaker Project". Proceedings of the IEEE: 1. doi:10.1109/JPROC.2014.2304638.
  22. ^ Professor Steve Furber: Building brains on YouTube
  23. ^ Professor Steve Furber Introduces SpiNNaker on YouTube
  24. ^ Xin Jin; Furber, S. B.; Woods, J. V. (2008). "Efficient modelling of spiking neural networks on a scalable chip multiprocessor". 2008 IEEE International Joint Conference on Neural Networks (IEEE World Congress on Computational Intelligence). pp. 2812–2819. doi:10.1109/IJCNN.2008.4634194. ISBN 978-1-4244-1820-6.
  25. ^ Dempsey, Paul (15 March 2011). "SpiNNaker set to receive new 18-core SoC to help reverse engineer the human brain". Engineering and Technology Magazine. Institution of Engineering and Technology. Archived from the original on 21 February 2014. Retrieved 7 March 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  26. ^ Bush, Steve (8 July 2011). "One million ARM cores to simulate brain at Manchester". Electronics Weekly. Retrieved 11 July 2011. UK scientists aim to model 1 per cent of a human brain with up to one million ARM cores. ... ARM was approached in May 2005 to participate in SpiNNaker ... agreement extends to Manchester making enough chips for a computer with a million cores.
  27. ^ "Acorn's Steve Furber looks to ARM supercomputers: A million node supercomputer". Techgineering. 8 July 2011. Archived from the original on 14 October 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  28. ^ a b Furber, S. (2011). "Biologically-Inspired Massively-Parallel Architectures: A Reconfigurable Neural Modelling Platform" (PDF). 6578: 2–2. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-19475-7_2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 January 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help); Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  29. ^ Plana, L. A.; Furber, S. B.; Temple, S.; Khan, M.; Shi, Y.; Wu, J.; Yang, S. (2007). "A GALS Infrastructure for a Massively Parallel Multiprocessor". IEEE Design & Test of Computers. 24 (5): 454. doi:10.1109/MDT.2007.149.
  30. ^ Temple, S.; Furber, S. (2007). "Neural systems engineering". Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 4 (13): 193. doi:10.1098/rsif.2006.0177. PMC 2359843.
  31. ^ Sharp, T; Petersen, R; Furber, S (2014). "Real-time million-synapse simulation of rat barrel cortex". Frontiers in Neuroscience. 8: 131. doi:10.3389/fnins.2014.00131. PMC 4038760. PMID 24910593.
  32. ^ Bhattacharya, B. S.; Patterson, C; Galluppi, F; Durrant, S. J.; Furber, S (2014). "Engineering a thalamo-cortico-thalamic circuit on SpiNNaker: A preliminary study toward modeling sleep and wakefulness". Frontiers in Neural Circuits. 8: 46. doi:10.3389/fncir.2014.00046. PMC 4033042. PMID 24904294.
  33. ^ Cumming, D. R.; Furber, S. B.; Paul, D. J. (2014). "Beyond Moore's law". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 372 (2012): 20130376. Bibcode:2014RSPTA.37230376C. doi:10.1098/rsta.2013.0376. PMC 3928907. PMID 24567480.
  34. ^ Grants awarded to Steve Furber by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
  35. ^ "Home computing pioneer honoured". 29 December 2007 – via
  36. ^ BBC Micro designer gets New Year's Honour ZDNet 2 January 2008
  37. ^ "Professor Stephen Furber: Creator of the ARM microprocessor". Millennium Prize. 9 June 2010. Retrieved 10 June 2010.
  38. ^ "Steve Furber". Computer History Museum. Archived from the original on 9 May 2013. Retrieved 23 May 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  39. ^ Williams, Alun (20 January 2012). "Four ARM cores for every person on earth – Furber, Wilson honoured". Electronics Weekly. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
  40. ^ Sarah Chatwin (14 March 2014). "Professor Steve Furber – BCS Distinguished Fellow". [Computer Science Manchester]. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  41. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue EC/2002/10: Furber, Stephen Byram". London: The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 17 March 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  42. ^ Micro Men (TV 2009) on IMDb

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External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Brian Warboys
Head of the School of Computer Science, University of Manchester
Succeeded by
Chris Taylor