By Heather Somerville

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Thomas Perkins, one of the founding fathers of Silicon Valley, died on Tuesday at age 84 at his home in Belvedere, California, according to the Marin County coroner's office.

As co-founder of the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, Perkins played a major role in the formative years of the computer and biotech industries. The firm that bears his name went on to fund some of the biggest names of the internet era, including Google and Amazon.

Perkins helped start Kleiner Perkins in 1972 with Eugene Kleiner after working as the first general manager of Hewlett Packard Co's computer division and later starting University Laboratories, a laser company that used Perkins' own optical inventions.

"He was there at the start of the biotech industry and the computer revolution. Tom was our partner and friend, and we will miss him," Frank Caufield and Brook Byers, co-founders of Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, said in a statement.

Perkins' investment in drug developer Genentech is widely considered by the venture capital community to have helped jump-start the biotech industry emerging in Silicon Valley during the 1970s.

He also played a central role in the funding and development of firms including Tandem Computers, Compaq Computer and LSI Logic, and served on the board of numerous companies including Hewlett Packard.

Perkins came under sharp criticism in 2014 for an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he equated the Occupy movement's "demonization of the rich" to the Nazis' persecution of the Jews. He later apologized for the analogy, but the venture capital firm that bears his name moved to distance itself from him.

Known as a colorful and dynamic personality, Perkins married romance novelist Danielle Steel, his second wife, in March 1998. After the brief marriage, Perkins himself wrote a novel: "Sex and the Single Zillionaire," published in 2006.

The billionaire had a love of yachts, and a boat he owned named "The Maltese Falcon," was once among the world's largest and most advanced sailing yachts, according to media reports.

(Reporting by Heather Somerville; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Peter Cooney)