SANTA CRUZ, Calif. A. Richard Newton, one of the most influential founders of the electronic design automation (EDA) industry, has died of pancreatic cancer at 55, EE Times has learned. Newton, who played key roles in the formation of both Cadence Design Systems and Synopsys, was dean of the college of engineering at the University of California at Berkeley.
Newton was a professor in the department of electrical engineering and computer science at Berkeley, and was the founding director of the MARCO/DARPA Gigascale Systems Research Center for design and test. Among other topics, Newton oversaw research in Spice simulation, mixed-mode simulation, and CAD frameworks.
Newton was also keenly interested in the application of information and computing technologies to global problems, and he played a key role in the formation of Citris, the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society. Now a large-scale, multi-university effort, Citris is attempting to tackle problems such as health care, poverty, and the environment with a
multidisciplinary engineering approach that combines information, biological and nano technologies.
In 2003, Newton won the EDA industry's highest honor, the EDA Consortium Phil Kaufman award. Asked what he viewed as his greatest contribution to EDA, Newton answered "it's my students. I'm proud of all my students and what they've gone on to do it's a bit of a who's who in EDA."
Newton's involvement in EDA goes back to his undergraduate days in the late 1960s. As an undergraduate computer science student at Melbourne University in Australia, he began working on an early version of the Spice circuit simulator in 1967 and developed one of the first interactive versions of Spice in 1971, using an ASR33 teletype.
At the urging of Don Pederson, another EDA pioneer and a previous Kaufman Award winner, Newton came to Berkeley for his PhD work. For his dissertation, he developed a mixed-mode logic, timing and circuit simulator. Subsequent research with his students yielded the first iterative timing analyzer and the first multiprocessor-based circuit simulator.
But Newton is probably best known for bringing EDA research into the real world. When Berkeley researchers developed an extensible, programmable environment for building EDA applications, later called a "framework," Newton and Jim Solomon, then at National Semiconductor Corp., tried to interest one of the existing EDA vendors. Failing to do so, Solomon launched SDA Systems, which counted four of Newton's students among its first six employees. SDA later merged with ECAD to form Cadence.
In the mid-1980s, Newton decided that next big thing in EDA would be logic synthesis. At that time, Aart de Geus was looking to commercialize Socrates, a synthesis program he had developed at General Electric Co. in North Carolina. Newton helped de Geus find the necessary venture capital to launch his own company, which became Synopsys.
Newton also helped to launch PiE Design Systems and Simplex Solutions. He served on boards of numerous companies and has been a venture partner with the Mayfield Fund and Tallwood Venture Capital. From November 1994 to July 1995, he was acting president and CEO of Silicon Light Machines, a development-stage company in the display market.
Newton's family has requested that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Regents of the University of California, payable to the Berkeley Center for Synthetic Biology.