SGML: Memory of Yuri Rubinsky (1952-1996)

SGML: Memory of Yuri Rubinsky (1952-1996)

[Via CTS Digest, (c) Erik Naggum]
Article: 12356 of comp.text.sgml
Newsgroups: comp.text.sgml
From: Pamela L. Gennusa <>
Subject: In memory of Yuri Rubinsky
Date: 29 Jan 1996 12:39:00 GMT
Message-ID: <>
Encoding: 91 TEXT

This message was originally prepared for members of the SGML Users' Group, 
and sent to them last week.
          Yuri Rubinsky 1952-1996

It is my sad duty to tell you of the untimely death of Yuri Rubinsky,
president and co-founder of SoftQuad Inc., champion of SGML, and friend to
so many of us, on Sunday, 21 January 1996.

It is in many ways because of Yuri and his work that the SGML community is
as much of a community as it is; he was a representative of SoftQuad but
also a fierce partisan of the concepts and implementation of SGML, and a
firm believer that we could accomplish more as a linked consortium than as
only competitors.

Although a staunch promoter of his own company, Yuri also helped unite
competitors to bring about positive accomplishments for the SGML industry.
The jewel in his crown is SGML Open, the consortium of providers of SGML
products and services. He envisioned the consortium together with Haviland
Wright [then] of Avalanche and Larry Bohn [then] of Interleaf; helped bring
it into being; and led it as Chairman for its first two years.

Hundreds of people felt Yuri's touch, he served as an unofficial uncle for
many in the SGML community, encouraging insights, pushing for clarity of
argument, teaching and preaching and leading the SGML way; his enthusiasm
and exuberance were always infectious.  There was another side to Yuri that
many of us discovered to our chagrin: he also had a habit of stealing other
people's best lines and making them his own.

He was as happy teaching newcomers the basics of SGML as convening a group
of experts to hammer-out technical details.  When he addressed a hall full
of people he sparkled with energy and enthusiasm.  He often scheduled
dozens of meetings in a single day, some as short as 5 minutes, and during
those meetings he gave each his full attention, carefully taking notes on
who would do what in his omnipresent notebooks.  And who would dare to
neglect an assignment after it was written in Yuri's book?

Few people can make an impression on an entire industry the way Yuri did.

He selected projects with wisdom and pursued them with fervor using his
considerable technical, political, and humorous talents. Not only did
ICADD, STEP, and IETF committees benefit from his work, but also those of
us who were evangelized and enlightened by Yuri about the importance of
such work.

Yuri's accomplishments were many:
 -- a 1989 winner of the Graphic Communications Association's `Tekkie'
    award for meritorious achievement in the technical documentation
 -- chairman of the GCA's annual four-day SGML conference since 1988
    contributing editor to this Newsletter and contributor to many
    publications including <TAG> The SGML Newsletter
 -- editor of Charles F. Goldfarb's The SGML Handbook
 -- co-writer and producer of SGML: The Movie
 -- member of the NATO Industry Advisory Group's CALS Study technical
    standards team, in the area of standards for publishing
 -- member of the Graphic Communications Association Board of Directors
 -- member of the CALS Industry Steering Group Standards Working Group,
    Electronic Publishing Committee, and task groups on the Electronic
    Review of Documents and Advanced Data Concepts (STEP, HyTime and CDM)
 -- member of the ISO/IEC working group in Canada that created SGML and
    related standards; and a member of the international committee creating
    STEP, a family of electronic product data standards
 -- member of the International Committee for Accessible Document Design
    (ICADD) which developed strategies and techniques for the use of SGML
    to generate Braille, large print and voice-synthesized texts
 -- co-author of Christopher Columbus Answers All Charges, the first book
    to appear in Braille and computer voice editions before the trade
    paperback (which was, of course, written in and published from SGML)
 -- co-founder and first president of SGML Open.

>From this long list of accomplishments it sounds like Yuri must have been a
sage, old man and given time he would have become one.  The Yuri we have
lost was a sage, young man - far too young.

Yuri was a man with the energy of two men, the passions of five, the
enthusiasm of ten, and the influence of fifty.  It is perhaps the most
fitting testament of all that hundreds of people from throughout the world
feel that when we lost Yuri we each lost one of our best friends and most
trusted advisers.  We will each miss his encouragement, his advice, his
smile, his handshake, and his jokes.  As an industry we will miss his
creative problem solving, his ability to soothe ruffled feathers, find
compromise, and engender co-operation.  As the message of Yuri's death
spread throughout the SGML community, people scattered across several
continents were first numb and then consumed with the need to talk and
reminisce and chuckle and mourn, always remembering one more anecdote about
Yuri, not letting him go.

We won't forget him.

          ...Tommie Usdin, Elaine Brennan, Pam Gennusa