Nimoy’s wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, made the announcement to The New York Times this morning.
He had been in and out of hospitals for the past couple of years, suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD. He attributed the affliction to heavy smoking for most of his adult life.
Nimoy quit in his 50s, more than 30 years ago. By then, though, the damage had been done and grew progressively worse with age.
He revealed his illness on Twitter last year with a warning: “I quit smoking 30 years ago. Not soon enough. I have COPD. Grandpa says, quit now!! LLAP.” The acronym is from a slogan on the show: “Live Long and Prosper.”
Nimoy’s character, as well as the series, have become iconic in the annals of science fiction. Today, fans called Trekkies number in the millions, regularly hold conventions and act out the characters.
The series was based on an adaptation of a science fiction book by the same name written by Gene Roddenberry. It charted the voyages of the Federation Starship Enterprise on its five-year mission to seek out new worlds.
Nimoy, known as a method actor, was hired to play one of the crew, Science Officer Spock, an alien from the planet Vulcan who was half-human.
Spock was thoroughly devoted to “logic” in keeping with his Vulcan upbringing, but also struggled with human emotions, which occasionally emerged at the most unexpected times. His character also possessed superior strength and the ability to read minds.
Ironically the series only aired for three years. But it had a lasting impact, because of its upbeat portrayal of a largely hospitable universe populated by dozens of intelligent species, and because it tackled controversial social issues.
The Enterprise wasn’t off the air for long. The series generated television spin-offs, starting with “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” and Star Trek: Enterprise.”
Six movies followed featuring the original cast: William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk, DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy, George Takei as Sulu, James Doohan, as chief engineer Scotty, Nichelle Nichols as Uhura and Walter Koenig as Chekov.
Four more films were known collectively as “The Next Generation.” They starred Patrick Stewart as Enterprise commander, but original cast members made a number of cameo appearances.
Despite failing health, Nimoy appeared in the 2013 reboot, “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” starring Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as younger versions of Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock.
Nimoy was so identified with the character he never fully escaped it, although he starred in other motion pictures. Ironically, he titled his 1977 autobiography “I Am Not Spock.” But he wrote a book in 1995 with the opposite title.
Outside of “Star Trek,” he starred in the television series “Mission:Impossible” and performed in theater. He also painted and wrote poetry, sang, cut several albums and directed movies.
Nimoy was born in Boston in 1931. His Orthodox Jewish family immigrated from Ukraine to the United States, where his father worked as a barber.
Leonard began acting at the age of 8. He continued appearing in local productions and school plays up until he left Boston College for Hollywood in 1949, according to his biography.
Nimoy was previously married to actress Sandi Zober. He is survived by children, Adam and Julie Nimoy, stepson, Aaron Bay Schuck, six grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and a brother, Melvin Nimoy.
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