Alec Nigel Broers was born on 17 September 1938 in Calcutta. He attended Geelong Grammar School in Australia, going on to gain a degree in physics from Melbourne University in 1959. In 1962 he was awarded a masters degree in electrical sciences at Cambridge University, going on to gain his PhD there in 1965.
He began a 19-year career with IBM in 1965 as a researcher at the Thomas J Watson Research Centre in New York. He also worked at the East Fishkill Development Laboratory, and at Corporate Headquarters. He became an IBM Fellow in 1977 and served on the Corporate Technical Committee.
He returned to Cambridge in 1984 to become Professor of Electrical Engineering and a Fellow of Trinity College (1985–90), where he set up a nano-fabrication laboratory to develop the technology of miniaturization to the atomic scale. In 1990 he became Master of Churchill College, Cambridge, and occupied this position until 1996. He was appointed Head of Cambridge University Engineering Department in 1993, and in 1996 was made Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, a position he held until 2003.
In 1998 he founded the Cambridge Network, a body established to link like- minded people from business and academia to each other and to the global high technology community. Since 2008 he has been Chairman of the Board of Diamond Light Source, the national synchrotron facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire. This opened in 2007 and is the UKs largest new scientific facility for thirty years.
He was knighted in 1998, and was created Baron Broers of Cambridge, in the County of Cambridgeshire, in 2004. He was President of the Royal Academy of Engineering from 2001 to 2006, and since 2004 has been Chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee. In 2005 he presented the Reith Lectures for the BBC.
He has received many awards and honours, including the American Institute of Physics Prize for Industrial Applications of Physics (1982), the Cledo Brunetti Award of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (1985), and the Prince Philip Medal of the Royal Academy of Engineering (2000). He has honorary degrees from, amongst others, the universities of Cambridge, Warwick, Glasgow, Greenwich, Melbourne, Durham, and Sheffield. He is a Fellow of Imperial College London, and an Honorary Fellow of Gonville and Caius, Trinity, and St Edmund’s Colleges, Cambridge, of Cardiff University, and of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. He is a Foreign Associate of the American National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Fellow of the Institute of Petroleum, a Fellow of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (now IET), and in 2004 was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
In 1964 he married Mary Therese Phelan, and they have one daughter and two sons.