We have very sad news to report from The New York Times: Leonard NimoyStar Trek’s Mr. Spock for almost 50 years, has died. Nimoy’s wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, told the Times the cause of death was “end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” The beloved actor and director was 83 years old.

Nimoy had a long career in front of and behind the camera; he’s fantastic in the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and he directed Hollywood hits like Three Men and a Baby. But he will be best remembered as Spock, the overly logical Vulcan member of the original Enterprise crew. He starred in all three seasons of the original Star Trek series, then remained with the franchise as it transferred to the big screen for six movies. Through the years he was responsible for much of Trek’s cultural legacy, delivering lines like “I have been, and ever shall be, your friend,” “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” and the immortal “Live long and prosper.” His final moments with William Shatner’s Captain Kirk from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan remain one of the most iconic death scenes not just in Star Trek canon, but in the entire history of cinema:

Though he sometimes fought against his Spock image (famously penning a book called I Am Not Spock) he eventually embraced it (famously penning a second book called, hilariously, I Am Spock). When J.J. Abrams rebooted the Trek concept with new actors, Nimoy was the only member of the original cast to return for the new version. His symbolic passing of the torch (and, by extension, his endorsement) gave this new generation of Star Trek an enormous amount of credibility.

Nimoy was born in Boston in 1931 and began acting when he was only 8 years old. He headed out to Hollywood to pursue a career in the entertainment business in 1949, but his career didn’t begin to take off until a string of guest appearances on television shows like Wagon Train and Perry Mason in the late 1950s. In 1966, the debut of Star Trek on NBC changed his life forever. Nimoy directed Star Trek III and IV, and even the film portion of the old Disney World attraction Body Wars, and in between acting and directing gigs, he also became an author, a poet, and even a musician.

I’m sure I speak for a lot of nerds out there when I say that Nimoy was a personal hero of mine as a child. At a time before geeks took over the mainstream, he made nerdiness seem cool. Mr. Spock couldn’t out-fight a lizard monster, and he didn’t score with a lot of alien women like Captain Kirk. Like a lot of teenage dorks who watched Star Trek (myself included), he had a bad haircut and his ears stuck out. But Spock was unflappable in the face of danger, and wielded his intellect as a weapon far more powerful than any phaser. No wonder he resonated with fans. He was the man we hoped we’d someday become.

Star Trek II takes on a sad new resonance. Leonard Nimoy is gone. But he left behind a beautiful legacy, and he touched and inspired millions of people. He will be sorely missed.

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