Authorised form of nameRoberts; Sir; Derek Harry (1932 - 2021); Engineer
ForenamesDerek Harry
Dates1932 - 2021
Dates and placesBirth:
28 March 1932
17 February 2021
Research field:
Manchester Central High School; The University of Manchester, BSc in Physics (1953)
Cadwell Research Laboratories, Plessey (joined 1953), Group Leader, Semiconductor Research, Plessey (1958), where he initiated the first research prgramme on Silicon Integrated Circuits; General Manager, Plessey Semiconductors (1967-1969); Managing Director, Plessey, Microsystems Division (1969); Visiting Professor, Department of Physics, University of Leicester (1969-1974); Visiting Professor, Department of Electronic Engineering, University College London (1979-1989); General Electric Company, Director of Research (1979), appointed to Board as Technical Director (1983), Joint Deputy Managing Director (1985), resigned 1989; Provost, University College London, (1989-1999 and 2002-2003). Served on the following bodies: The Electronics Research Council (MOD); Advisory Board for the Research Councils; Science and Engineering Research Council; The Electronics Requirements Board (DTI); Advisory Council on Applied Research and Development. Non-Executive Directorships with: GEC plc; Fisons plc; GUS plc; Railtrack plc. Trustee, Wolfson FOundation; Trustee, The Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research
CBE 1983; Kt 1995
Glazebrook Medal of the Institute of Physics; J.J. Thomson Medal of the Insitute of Electrical Engineers
FREng (1980); Institute of Physics; Institute of Electrical Engineers
Royal Society activityMembership:
Election Date:
Clifford Paterson 1980
1996-1997; VP 1996-1997
Published works
General contextDerek Roberts was best known as an early leader — as both a researcher and in the management of research facilities — in the advancement of silicon-based integrated circuit technology. This technology is now ubiquitous in electronic devices, ranging from computers to satellites to smart energy meters.

Derek’s professional life was largely concerned with industrial scientific research. In the early 1960s, he was responsible for developing complex integrated circuits for Plessey — an electronics, defence and telecommunications company. In 1979, he moved to head GEC’s research activities, revamping its semiconductor research and development programme and setting up its Long Range Research Laboratory. The latter enabled GEC to explore research opportunities extending beyond the company’s usual timescale. He later twice served as Provost of University College London.

Derek delivered the annual distinguished lecture of the Campaign for Science and Engineering in 1995, on foresight and hindsight in science. In 1996, he was elected President of the British Science Association. Derek was awarded a CBE in 1988 and was knighted in 1995 for services to engineering and to education.

Sir Derek Roberts CBE FREng FRS died on 17 February 2021.
Royal Society pofile page (, accessed 26 February 2021); PIF
Virtual International Authority File
Royal Society codeNA4747
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
IM/003840Roberts, Sir Derek Harrynd
CMB/419Minutes of the Science in Society Committee1997-2004
EC/1980/30Roberts, Sir Derek Harry: certificate of election to the Royal Society1975
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