Described as dynamic and entrepreneurial, "a man of incomparable vision," A. Richard Newton was a pioneer in electronic design automation and integrated circuit design, and a visionary technology leader. A fortuitous meeting in the early 1970s with Donald Pederson, then UC-Berkeley professor emeritus of electrical engineering and computer sciences, kick started Newton's lifelong interest in electronic design automation (EDA).
From 1973 to 1975, while still a student in Australia, Newton worked with Pederson on an early version of a computer simulation program that enables engineers to analyze and design complex electronic circuitry with speed and accuracy, and he became a major force behind the project when he joined Pederson at Berkeley in 1975.
In 1978, Newton earned his PhD in electrical engineering and computer sciences from UC-Berkeley, and was appointed to the engineering faculty later that year. He quickly scaled the academic ladder, going from assistant professor in 1978 to associate professor in 1982. In 1985, he was promoted to full professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. Newton served as chair of the department from 1999 to 2000, and was dean of the College of Engineering and the Roy W. Carlson Professor of Engineering from 2000 until his death from pancreatic cancer in January 2007.
Newton's eloquence and magnetism drew widespread attention to his ideas for the role engineering could play in tackling some of society's most difficult challenges, particularly those of developing nations. In the years immediately preceding his death, Newton became a champion of synthetic biology, seeing the emerging field as the application of engineering principles to the life sciences. He played a major role in the establishment of the Berkeley Center for Synthetic Biology, as well as of the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center, or SynBERC, launched in 2006 with a $16 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
From 1998 to 2002, Newton served as the founding director of the MARCO/DARPA Gigascale Silicon Research Center (GSRC), a major private-public partnership with the U.S. government and the semiconductor industry that funds and coordinates long-range research at a dozen major U.S. universities and involves many industrial collaborators.
Newton also played an active role in industry, helping to found a number of design technology companies. He also advised several venture capital firms, where he contributed both to the evaluation and early-stage development of more than two dozen new companies.
In honor of Newton’s leadership in helping entrepreneurs, the Kauffman Foundation established the A. Richard Newton Distinguished Innovator Lecture Series to keep his continue his work with science and technology, business, and young entrepreneurs.
Newton was a strong advocate of promoting women in engineering and, while he was dean, the number of women on the faculty at the College of Engineering nearly doubled from 15 in 2000 to 27 today. Newton also served on the Board of Trustees for the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, which provides resources and programs to help industry, academia and government recruit, retain and develop women leaders in high technology careers.
Newton earned numerous awards throughout his career, including the 2003 Phil Kaufman Award, the highest recognition given for research and entrepreneurial contributions to the electronic design automation industry. In 2004, he was named to the National Academy of Engineering, and in 2006, he was named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also a member of the Association for Computing Machinery and a fellow of the Institute of Electrical an