Leonard Nimoy, the actor and science fiction icon that portrayed Spock in the long-running Star Trek franchise, passed away Friday morning at his home in Los Angeles, California, his wife Susan Nimoy confirmed to the New York Times. He was 83. Nimoy died of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; earlier in the week, the actor was taken to the hospital with severe chest pains.
“I loved him like a brother. We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love,” his longtime co-star William Shatner tweeted following news of Nimoy’s death. George Takei, who played Sulu on Star Trek, wrote on Facebook, “Today, the world lost a great man, and I lost a great friend. We return you now to the stars, Leonard. You taught us to ‘Live Long And Prosper,’ and you indeed did, friend. I shall miss you in so many, many ways.”
Born March 26, 1931 in Boston, Massachusetts, Nimoy’s acting career began in the early Fifties with a score of small roles in b-horror films like Them! and The Brain Eaters and dozens of television shows like Perry Mason, Gunsmoke and The Twilight Zone. However, Nimoy’s big break arrived in 1966 when he was cast as the half-human, half-Vulcan Mr. Spock alongside William Shatner’s Captain Kirk on the hit TV seriesStar Trek.
While the USS Enterprise’s original run lasted for only three seasons and 79 episodes, the franchise that journeyed “where no man has gone” before soon became a cult phenomenon, sprouting a legion of fans (“Trekkies”), dozens of spin-offs like The Next Generation (on which Nimoy appeared on two episodes as Spock), and a long-running feature film series. Nimoy was the only member of the original cast to reprise his role in the 2009 Star Trek reboot.
In addition to his cameos in the reboots, Nimoy was Shatner’s second-in-command in six Star Trek films beginning with 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture through 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Thanks to Nimoy’s earnest portrayal of Spock, the character became a beloved figure in the both the Star Trek universe and the science-fiction world, where his four-fingered Vulcan salute and mantra “Live long and prosper” became as venerable as the peace sign.
Like his counterpart Shatner, Nimoy also dabbled in the music world, releasing five albums in the span of four years during the peak of Star Trek the television series’ popularity. The first, Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space, found Nimoy performing covers of the era’s popular songs as Spock, creating a campy affair but a cherished time capsule of the time. Four more-traditional albums followed until Nimoy abandoned his music career completely following the release of 1970’s The New World of Leonard Nimoy.
While working on Star Trek, Nimoy also honed his directorial skills. The actor would later helm a pair of Star Trek sequels – The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home — as well as Body Wars and the 1987 hit comedy Three Men and a Baby. Nimoy also penned a pair of autobiographies, 1975’s I Am Not Spock and 1995’s I Am Spock.
Last year, Nimoy revealed to fans that, after over three decades of smoking, the consequences had caught up to him health-wise. After Nimoy went to the hospital this week, Shatner tweeted, “I am uplifted by the show of love & caring tweeted to my dear friend @TheRealNimoy. I join the chorus of well wishers for a quick recovery!”