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He Lived Long and Prospered: Leonard Nimoy dead at 83

Veteran actor Leonard Nimoy, who became a household name with his portrayal of Spock in the Star Trek television series and the countless projects spun out of the sci-fi franchise, has died at age 83.

Nimoy passed away the morning of Friday, February 27, in his Los Angeles home, The New York Times reports. According to his wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, the cause of death was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a result of the long smoking habit that he had given up more than three decades ago. Nimoy had been hospitalized earlier this week due to symptoms of the disease.

An icon in the science-fiction community, Nimoy had experienced a career resurgence in recent years, with a featured role in the hit series Fringe, prominent voice-acting roles in films like Transformers: Dark of the Moon and various video games, and a recurring cameo (as Mr. Spock / “Spock Prime”) in the recently rebooted Star Trek movie franchise.

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Over the course of a career spanning more than 60 years, Nimoy earned four Primetime Emmy Award nominations, as well as a long list of awards and nominations from the Academy of  Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, the Hugo Awards, and the animation-focused Annie Awards, among other honors. He also directed two installments of the original Star Trek franchise, Star Trek III: The Search For Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, as well as the hit 1987 comedy 3 Men and a Baby and the 1990 Gene Wilder comedy Funny About Love.

Nimoy’s career extended far beyond the screen, though, with his interest in photography earning him exhibitions of his work in various galleries over the years. He also penned two volumes of an autobiography and several volumes of poetry that were often paired with his photography.

It was his interest in music that earned him the most attention outside the Star Trek fan community, however. Nimoy released five albums over the years that spanned a wide spectrum of genres — from campy sci-fi and fantasy themes to popular folk songs and covers of classic country and rock songs. His 1967 recording of The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins may be the most widely known of his songs, becoming a viral hit of sorts when footage found its way online from a performance of the song on the short-lived variety show Malibu U.

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Nimoy’s long legacy also includes the creation of his Star Trek character’s famous salute, which involves holding up one hand with the middle and ring fingers separated to form a “V” symbol, and the accompanying wish that the recipient of the gesture “Live Long and Prosper.” The salute was inspired by Nimoy’s memories of the way Jewish kohanim (priests) position their hands while offering a blessing, and the “Live Long and Prosper” sentiment was derived from the Jewish prayer that accompanies the gesture.

Nimoy is survived by his wife, Susan, and two children and six grandchildren from an earlier marriage.