After a lifetime at the cutting edge of academic research into computing, Needham was founded Microsoft's research operation at Cambridge five years ago.
Born in 1935, Needham took his first degree at the University of Cambridge, followed by a diploma in numerical analysis and automatic computing.
In 1961, Needham obtained a doctorate for his work on automatic classification and information retrieval.
He became a senior research assistant in the Mathematical Laboratory (now the Computer Laboratory) in 1963, working on the Titan operating system, and in 1964 was promoted to assistant director of research.
From 1980 until 1985 he was head of the laboratory, moving on to become pro vice-chancellor of the university. When Microsoft Research was created in 1997, Needham took on the role of managing director.
Needham had been diagnosed with incurable cancer in late 2002.
On 17 February, his colleagues held an event to celebrate Needham's 50 years at Cambridge and five years with Microsoft. He was presented with a volume of 46 papers, "Computer systems: papers for Roger Needham" that had been put together in his honour.