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Dr. John Warnock

The PDF world mourns John Warnock, Adobe co-founder who created and inspired our industry

The PDF industry mourns the passing of the Adobe founder and visionary whose inventions and insights led to the creation of PDF.
About the author: As CEO of the PDF Association and as an ISO Project Leader, Duff coordinates industry activities, represents industry stakeholders in a variety of settings and promotes the advancement and adoption of … Read more
Duff Johnson

Duff Johnson
August 21, 2023


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Dr. John WarnockOnly a few leaders in information technology can claim to have changed the world. Even fewer can claim responsibility for revolutionizing the end user’s experience. Fewer still enabled a new paradigm lasting decades.

Dr. John Warnock, co-founder of Adobe, is one such leader. The PDF Association, its member companies, and computer users worldwide owe an extraordinary debt of gratitude to this extraordinary visionary, who passed away on August 19, 2023.

Co-founder of Adobe

With consumer products spanning - and defining - communications in both the paper and digital eras, Adobe is a unique company in the IT space. The company’s extraordinary track record of innovation and product development, from the 1980s to today, is a testament to the insight, focus and drive of its founders; Chuck Geschke, who passed in 2021, and John Warnock.

Those who knew John Warnock are universal in their acknowledgement, not merely of his vision and technical leadership, but in his ability to inspire his employees and colleagues. As someone who has worked closely with Adobe personnel for 27 years I can testify to the fact that Warnock’s dedication to people; employees and customers alike, is legendary within the company he co-founded.

Creator of PDF

John Warnock is rightly remembered for many innovations. His insight regarding the “ability to communicate visual material between different computer applications and systems,” as he put it in his seminal 1990 “Camelot Project” essay, was surely one of the most significant. Camelot sparked the development effort that would result in the launch of Portable Document Format (PDF) technology in 1993.

Thanks to Warnock’s vision, with the introduction of PDF, the world changed on June 15, 1993. PDF’s impact on business and communications in general is hard to overstate. 30 years on, PDF maintains and expands its footprint as the world’s chosen digital document format. 

Rest in peace, John Warnock. The PDF industry will miss your leadership and inspiration, even as we do our best to carry your torch.

Dr. Warnock is survived by his wife Marva and his three children. Read Dr. Warnock’s biography on adobe.com.

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