SGML: Memory of Yuri Rubinsky (1952-1996)

SGML: Memory of Yuri Rubinsky (1952-1996)

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From: Steven Champeon <>
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Subject: Yuri Rubinsky
Date: Fri, 26 Jan 1996 09:31:05 -0500
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Here's something I had forwarded to me from the COPYEDITING-L
mailing list. I figured that this would be as appropriate a
forum as any for posting the news, sad as it is.

I first 'met' Yuri while in training as an SGML Conversion
Operator for Gateway Conversion Technologies back in 1993.
We were forced to watch "SGML: The Movie", which Yuri
produced, and I must admit we wondered what we were getting
ourselves into. ;)


----- Begin Included Message -----

From: "Sarah O'Keefe - Imonics Corporation" <>
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 1996 13:50:50 -0500

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>From Thu Jan 25 13:35 EST 1996Date: Thu, 25 Jan 1996 13:11:11 -0500
From: (Greg Ioannou)
To: Copy Editors and Editing <>
Subject: Yuri Rubinsky

One of the world's unlikeliest copy editors died on the weekend. I've been
thinking about Yuri the last few days -- an exercise guaranteed to make you
feel inadequate. I thought I'd post this to the Copyediting list for the
benefit of people in publishing whose lives had been changed by him who
might not have heard the news.

I've appended the obituary circulated by SoftQuad, the company he founded.
It omits a few details that are relevant to our trade. For instance, in the
late 1970s, as a student in his twenties frustrated with his inability to
find any formal training in editing, he spearheaded the formation of the
Banff Publishing Workshop, which opened in 1980. Banff remains one of the
two most prestigious publishing programs in North America.

As he flitted around the edges of copy editing in the late 1970s and early
1980s (while he was taking a degree in architecture?!), I remember him
taking us to task at FEAC (Freelance Editors' Association of Canada)
meetings for not becoming computer literate. He couldn't understand why we
still wanted to work on paper when word processors (remember Kaypro?) were
becoming available.  

He gave a "technology and editors" seminar for FEAC around 1981 that left us
totally befuddled. While the rest of us were debating whether we should
start using those new-fangled Post-It Notes, he was trying to get us
interested in the first tentative beginnings of SGML.

He understandably grew a bit restless with trying to drag us into the future
with him, and went on to work with the people at tiny Coach House Press, who
wanted to know how they could use the same computer files to produce
hard-cover and paperback versions of books, without having to totally
reformat everything. In the mid 1970s, he (along with Stan Bevington of
Coach House and two others) formed SoftQuad, which was intended to produce
software to do just that.  

Inadvertently (or maybe Yuri saw it all along?), they helped produce
software that makes Web browsers possible.

The above is written from fuzzy fifteen-year-old memories. The brief
obituary I've reproduced below, from SoftQuad, is presumably better researched!

                       YURI RUBINSKY

Canada lost a true Renaissance Man, on Sunday, January 21st.
Yuri Rubinsky, born in Tripoli, Lebanon on August 2, 1952, died suddenly.

He graduated as an Architect from the University of Toronto in 1979, but
his accomplishments centered in three main areas: software, publishing and

Yuri was a founder and President of SoftQuad Inc, and developed
software for the Internet such as HoTMetaL, MetalWorks and Author/Editor.
He was also Chairman, SGML Open Consortium and influential member of many
Internet and World Wide Web Standards and Technical organizations.
He was also known around the world for his dedication and innovation in
developing software for the visually impaired.

Yuri was Founding Co-Director of the Banff Publishing Workshop and
actively promoted the cause of publishers and writers in Canada. He also
founded, created and edited both Yorker Magazine, (1985-86) and Not The
Globe and Mail (1984) and founded Invisible Books in 1979.

His greatest achievements were as a writer: co-author of Christopher
Columbus Answers All Charges, 1993;   The Wankers' Guide to Canada, 1986;
A History of The End of The World, 1982.  Editor of The SGML Primer, 1991
and The SGML Handbook, 1990.  Yuri was also co-author and producer of SGML:
The Movie, 1990, and Invisible Cities, the play, in 1981. Recently Yuri was
finishing two books on SGML and the Internet, as well as an historical
comedy on Vergil, Mesmer and Neil Armstrong.

Yuri leaves his greatest admirer and supporter, Holley, his wife, a poet and
editor; her daughter, Robin;  his parents, Andre and Anna, a loving sister
Katherine, her husband John, and Jamie and Christopher, their children.

He was a man who knew what it meant to be first, and always strove to be
first in everything he did.

Memorial Service at Deer Park United Church, Saturday,  January 27th, 2 pm.
Donations In Memoriam to The War Amps of Canada.

[For those of you in range, see also today's Globe and Mail, page C3,
 or probably tomorrow's Toronto Star. --msb]