Obituary: John Warnock (1940- 2023)

John Warnock, who invented the PDF and co-founded Adobe Systems, in the process revolutionising how the world uses computers, died on 19 August. He was 82. The cause of death wasn’t revealed. Warnock is survived by his wife and three children.

25 Aug 2023 | By PrintWeek Team

John Warnock: Inventor of PDF

A message from the Adobe team. It said, "It is with profound sadness, we share the passing of our beloved co-founder, Dr John Warnock. One of the greatest inventors of our generation, his indomitable spirit and innovations leave an enduring impact on Adobe and the world."

The company said Warnock’s "vision and passion enabled Adobe to deliver groundbreaking innovations such as Illustrator, the ubiquitous PDF file format and Acrobat, Photoshop and Premiere Pro, defining the desktop era and unleashing creativity and opportunity for millions of people."

John Warnock helped start the company in 1982 with the late Charles Geschke. The two of them transformed Adobe into a software powerhouse that became the backbone of the internet.

Warnock and Geschke were credited with building PostScript, a programming language, which helped usher in the desktop publishing revolution.  Geshke died in 2021 at the age of 81.

"John Warnock’s brilliance and technology innovations changed the world,” Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen said in a letter sent to employees. “It is a sad day for the Adobe community and the industry for which he has been an inspiration for decades."

Narayen praised Warnock’s “indomitable spirit, passion and belief in building a company with strong values that has impacted all of us who have had the good fortune of working at Adobe."

In a post on LinkedIn, Dana Rao, Adobe's general counsel, chief trust officer, and executive vice-president, wrote "John was always involved, always pushing us to do more, be better: 'can we do more in education?' 'When can I get the Acrobat beta?'"

Rao went on to say that those observations, along with others about PDFs and Reader, came during an Adobe board meeting in January. They were "typical of John raising the bar for us all," Rao wrote.

John Warnock was born on 6 October, 1940, in Holladay, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City. His father, Clarence, was a lawyer; his mother, Dorothy (Van Dyke) Warnock, was a homemaker.

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