Biography: Dr. Charles F. Goldfarb

Charles F. Goldfarb is the father of "markup languages" -- the data technology of the World Wide Web. He is the inventor of SGML, the Standard Generalized Markup Language on which the Web's HTML and XML are based.

Origin of markup languages

In 1969, while a researcher at IBM, Charles Goldfarb led the project that invented the Generalized Markup Language (GML), as a means of integrating the components of a law office information system. He coined the term "markup language" to describe GML's unique hybrid of document tagging, data modeling, and metalanguage.

In 1974, he invented the original SGML, which IBM contributed to the International Standards Organization (ISO). He was chosen to lead the ISO technical team that developed his basic invention into International Standard 8879, published in 1986.

Markup languages and document management

Charles Goldfarb's ideas have been adopted by thousands of organizations whose complex systems and products require massive amounts of documentation. (A single model of aircraft, for example, requires 4 million pages that must be updated quarterly.)

SGML literally makes the infrastructure of modern society possible. It supports the documentation of nuclear plants, oil rigs, government laws and regulations, military systems -- anything that is too complex for a single person to understand and that has life-and-death significance.

The widespread deployment of markup languages has made more information accessible to people with reading disabilities. Because SGML can capture abstract information, multiple renditions in different styles can be generated automatically from a single document. Braille and large print, for example, can be produced as inexpensive by-products of conventional book production.

Goldfarb continued at IBM Research, working on markup languages for hypertext, graphics, and multimedia. He invented the original Hypermedia/Time-based Structuring Language (HyTime) and led its development into International Standard 10744, published in 1992.

Markup languages and the World Wide Web

In 1999 the Society for Technical Communication recognized the impact of markup languages on society in general and the World Wide Web in particular. It awarded dual Honorary Fellowships: to Goldfarb for markup languages and to Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web, for making such innovative use of the technology.

The World Wide Web is built on markup languages. HTML, the Hypertext Markup Language, is used to describe the way Web pages should appear in a browser. XML, the Extensible Markup Language, describes objects that are interchanged for Web services, electronic commerce, distributed computing, and other purposes.

Publications and honors

Goldfarb edits Prentice-Hall's Definitive XML Series and his XML Handbook™now in its Fifth Edition, has over 100,000 copies in print in six languages. He has been profiled in Forbes and Red Herring, among other publications, and the Seybold Report cited his SGML Handbook™ as the definitive reference on SGML.

In addition to being an Honorary Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, he holds the Printing Industries of America Gutenberg Award.

From 2000 - 2005 Goldfarb served as a Director of Innodata Isogen, Inc. (INOD:NASDAQ). Since 2006 he has been an advisor to ObjectBuilders (, a privately-held company that employs XML in its patented methodology for custom application development.

Dr. Goldfarb is an independent consultant and speaker. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Columbia College.

To Charles F. Goldfarb's SGML Source Home Page.

To Charles F. Goldfarb's XML Handbook.

Copyright ©2008 Charles F. Goldfarb. All rights reserved. Information on this site cannot be used or cited for any commercial purpose, although links to the site are welcome. Any questions, comments, or suggestions? Write to Charles at the domain