Jump to content

Steve Furber

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Steve Furber
Furber in 2009
Stephen Byram Furber

(1953-03-21) 21 March 1953 (age 71)[6]
Manchester, England[7]
EducationManchester Grammar School
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge (BA, MMath, PhD)[6][8]
Known for
Valerie Margaret Elliott
(m. 1977)
Scientific career
ThesisIs the Weis-Fogh principle exploitable in turbomachines? (1979)
Doctoral advisorJohn Ffowcs Williams[3][4]
Notable studentsSimon Segars[5]

Stephen Byram Furber CBE FRS FREng[12] (born 21 March 1953)[6] is a British computer scientist, mathematician and hardware engineer, and Emeritus ICL Professor of Computer Engineering in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Manchester, UK.[13] 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.[14] As of 2023, over 250 billion ARM chips have been manufactured, powering much of the world's mobile computing and embedded systems, everything from sensors to smartphones to servers.[15][16][17][8]

In 1990, he moved to Manchester to lead research into asynchronous circuits, low-power electronics[18] and neural engineering, where the Spiking Neural Network Architecture (SpiNNaker) project is delivering a computer incorporating a million ARM processors optimised for computational neuroscience.[2][19][20][21][22]


Furber was educated at Manchester Grammar School[6][23] and represented the UK in the International Mathematical Olympiad in Hungary in 1970 winning a bronze medal.[24] 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.[8] 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 mechanism[4] supervised by John Ffowcs Williams.[3][25][26] During his PhD in the late 1970s, Furber worked on a voluntary basis for Hermann Hauser and Chris Curry within the fledging Acorn Computers (originally the Cambridge Processor Unit), on a number of projects; notably a microprocessor based fruit machine controller, and the Proton - the initial prototype version of what was to become the BBC Micro, in support of Acorn's tender for the BBC Computer Literacy Project.[27][28][29][30][31]

Career and research[edit]

In 1981, following the completion of his PhD and the award of the BBC contract to Acorn computers, Furber joined Acorn where he was a Hardware Designer and then Design Manager. He was involved in the final design and production of the BBC Micro and later, the Acorn Electron, and the ARM microprocessor. In August 1990 he moved to the University of Manchester to become the International Computers Limited (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.[2] In 2003, Furber was a member of the EPSRC research cluster in biologically-inspired[32] 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[citation needed].

Furber's most recent project SpiNNaker,[9][33][34][35][36][37] 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.[38][39] The finished Spinnaker will model 1 per cent of the human brain's capability, or around 1 billion neurons. The Spinnaker project[40] 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".[40] Furber's research interests include asynchronous systems, ultra-low-power processors for sensor networks, on-chip interconnect and globally asynchronous locally synchronous (GALS),[41] and neural systems engineering.[42][43][44][45]

His research has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC),[46] Royal Society[12] and the European Research Council (ERC).[8]

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[12] 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),[6] 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[47] and in 2010 he gave the Pinkerton Lecture.[48]

Furber was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours[49][50] 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.[51] 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."[52][53]

In 2004 he was awarded a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award.[12] In 2014, he was made a Distinguished Fellow at the British Computer Society (DFBCS) recognising his contribution to the IT profession and industry.[54] Furber's nomination for the Royal Society reads:

Professor Furber is distinguished for his fundamental contributions to the design and analysis of electronic systems, especially microprocessors. He was the original designer of the hardware architecture of the ARM processor, the world's leading embedded processor core and a major engineering and commercial success for the United Kingdom. Having moved to Manchester University, he established a research team to investigate asynchronous processor design, which rapidly made fundamental contributions to the field. He has shown how to combine academic design theories with practical engineering constraints to achieve a remarkable and elegant synthesis. His work demonstrates in particular how to design microprocessors with low power and low radio frequency emissions, necessary for future wireless applications. Furber has designed a series of highly original asynchronous processors to execute the ARM instruction set. These have been fabricated and subjected to extensive experimental analysis. Furber's group is the world's leading centre of research in both fundamental theory and engineering implementation of such devices.[55]

In 2009, Unsworth Academy (formerly called Castlebrook High School) in Manchester introduced a house system, with Furber being one of the four houses.[56] On 15 October 2010, Furber officially opened the Independent Learning Zone in Unsworth Academy.[57] In 2012, a building at Radbroke Hall was named in his honour by Barclays Bank.[58]

In 2022, he was awarded the Charles Stark Draper Prize by the National Academy of Engineering of the United States of America alongside John L. Hennessy, David A. Patterson and Sophie M. Wilson for contributions to the invention, development, and implementation of reduced instruction set computer (RISC) chips.[59][1] Furber was played by actor Sam Philips in the BBC Four documentary drama Micro Men,[60] first aired on 8 October 2009.

Personal life[edit]

Furber playing bass guitar

Furber is married to Valerie Elliot with two daughters, 3 grandchildren[6] and plays bass guitar.[23]


  1. ^ a b Anon (2022). "Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering". nae.edu.
  2. ^ a b c d e Steve Furber publications indexed by Google Scholar Edit this at Wikidata
  3. ^ a b Steve Furber at the Mathematics Genealogy Project Edit this at Wikidata
  4. ^ a b Furber, Stephen Byram (1980). Is the Weis-Fogh principle exploitable in turbomachines?. cam.ac.uk (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. doi:10.17863/CAM.11472. OCLC 500446535. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.456071.
  5. ^ Segars, Simon Anthony (1996). Low power microprocessor design (MSc thesis). University of Manchester. OCLC 643624237. Copac 36604476.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Anon (2015). "Furber, Prof. Stephen Byram". Who's Who (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.43464. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  7. ^ Brown, David (1 February 2010). "A Conversation with Steve Furber". Queue. Association for Computing Machinery. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d Steve Furber's ORCID 0000-0002-6524-3367
  9. ^ a b Furber, S. B.; Galluppi, F.; Temple, S.; Plana, L. A. (2014). "The SpiNNaker Project". Proceedings of the IEEE. 102 (5): 652–665. doi:10.1109/JPROC.2014.2304638. S2CID 25268038.
  10. ^ "The Human Brain Project SP 9: Neuromorphic Computing Platform" on YouTube
  11. ^ Furber, Stephen B. (2000). ARM system-on-chip architecture (2 ed.). Boston: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-201-67519-6. "The design of a general-purpose processor, in common with most engineering endeavours, requires careful consideration of many trade-offs and compromises"
  12. ^ a b c d Anon (2002). "Professor Stephen Furber CBE FREng FRS". royalsociety.org. London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org 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 web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

  13. ^ "Prof Steve Furber CBE FRS FREng FBCS FIET CITP CEng - The University of Manchester". research.manchester.ac.uk.
  14. ^ Lean, Thomas (22 October 2012). "Steve Furber: developing ARM with no people and no money". British Library. Archived from the original on 10 November 2016. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  15. ^ Anon (2023). "Arm is Everywhere Technology Matters: 250+ Billion Chips in Everything from Sensors to Smartphones to Servers". arm.com.
  16. ^ "Inside the numbers: 100 billion ARM-based chips". 27 February 2017.
  17. ^ "Enabling Mass IoT connectivity as Arm partners ship 100 billion chips". 27 February 2017.
  18. ^ Furber, Stephen B. (1989). VLSI RISC architecture and organization. New York: M. Dekker. ISBN 0-8247-8151-1.
  19. ^ Grier, D. A. (2014). "Steve Furber [Interviews]". IEEE Annals of the History of Computing. 36: 58–68. doi:10.1109/MAHC.2014.8. S2CID 28152764.
  20. ^ ARM and its Partners talk about reaching the 50 Billion chip milestone on YouTube
  21. ^ Steve Furber publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  22. ^ National Life Stories, Professor Steve Furber Interviewed by Thomas Lean, British Library
  23. ^ a b Hull, Duncan (2023). Steve Furber on Cambridge, Acorn and the University of Manchester. Archived from the original on 19 December 2023. "Maths is the only sport I've played for my country" {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  24. ^ Steve Furber's results at International Mathematical Olympiad
  25. ^ 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. S2CID 222345512.
  26. ^ Fitzpatrick, J. (2011). "An interview with Steve Furber". Communications of the ACM. 54 (5): 34–39. doi:10.1145/1941487.1941501. S2CID 9046599.
  27. ^ "Acorn recollections: Steve Furber recalls..." speleotrove.com.
  28. ^ "The Tech Lab: Steve Furber". bbc.co.uk. BBC News. 9 October 2008.
  29. ^ Lecture by Furber on the Future of Computer Technology
  30. ^ Anon (2009). "Steve Furber Video Interview". computinghistory.org.uk.
  31. ^ "Steve Furber Talk @ Acorn World". computinghistory.org.uk. 2009.
  32. ^ 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.
  33. ^ BBC News – Scientists to build 'brain box' 17 July 2006
  34. ^ Professor Steve Furber: Building brains on YouTube
  35. ^ Professor Steve Furber Introduces SpiNNaker on YouTube
  36. ^ 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. S2CID 2103654.
  37. ^ 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.
  38. ^ 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.
  39. ^ "Acorn's Steve Furber looks to ARM supercomputers: A million node supercomputer". Techgineering. techgineering.org. 8 July 2011. Archived from the original on 14 October 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
  40. ^ a b Furber, S. (2011). "Biologically-Inspired Massively-Parallel Architectures: A Reconfigurable Neural Modelling Platform" (PDF). Reconfigurable Computing: Architectures, Tools and Applications. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Vol. 6578. p. 2. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-19475-7_2. ISBN 978-3-642-19474-0. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 January 2013.
  41. ^ 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. S2CID 16758888.
  42. ^ Temple, S.; Furber, S. (2007). "Neural systems engineering". Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 4 (13): 193–206. doi:10.1098/rsif.2006.0177. PMC 2359843. PMID 17251143.
  43. ^ 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.
  44. ^ 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.
  45. ^ 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.
  46. ^ http://gow.epsrc.ac.uk/NGBOViewPerson.aspx?PersonId=5628 Grants awarded to Steve Furber by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
  47. ^ "Stephen Furber". royalsociety.org. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  48. ^ "The Pinkerton Lecture:The relentless march of the microchip". Tv.thiet.org. Archived from the original on 28 August 2011.
  49. ^ "Home computing pioneer honoured". 29 December 2007 – via news.bbc.co.uk.
  50. ^ BBC Micro designer gets New Year's Honour ZDNet 2 January 2008
  51. ^ "Professor Stephen Furber: Creator of the ARM microprocessor". Millennium Prize. 9 June 2010. Retrieved 10 June 2010.
  52. ^ "Steve Furber". Computer History Museum. Archived from the original on 9 May 2013. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  53. ^ Williams, Alun (20 January 2012). "Four ARM cores for every person on earth – Furber, Wilson honoured". Electronics Weekly. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
  54. ^ Chatwin, Sarah (2014). "Professor Steve Furber – BCS Distinguished Fellow". University of Manchester. Archived from the original on 14 March 2014.
  55. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue EC/2002/10: Furber, Stephen Byram". London: The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 17 March 2014.
  56. ^ "Businessmen support school's new house system". burytimes.co.uk. 16 February 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2021.
  57. ^ "Castlebrook unveils its new Independent Learning Zone". burytimes.co.uk. 14 December 2010. Retrieved 19 September 2021.
  58. ^ "Professor opens restaurant named in his honour". knutsfordguardian.co.uk. 4 November 2012.
  59. ^ "Recipients of the Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering". nae.edu. National Academy of Engineering. Archived from the original on 2 March 2022.
  60. ^ Micro Men (TV 2009) at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata

 This article incorporates text available under the CC BY 4.0 license.

Academic offices
Preceded by Head of the Department of Computer Science, University of Manchester
Succeeded by
Chris Taylor