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Leonard Nimoy

(1931 - 2015)

Leonard Nimoy was a Jewish American actor, film director, poet, singer and photographer.

He was born Leonard Simon Nimoy on March 26, 1931, in Boston, Massachusetts. Nimoy was raised in a Jewish home in Boston, went to Boston College and Antioch, and trained at the Pasadena Playhouse.

During the 1950s, Nimoy began his career doing small roles in B-movies and TV shows, such as working on the serial Zombies of the Stratosphere in 1952. In 1961, he had a minor role in The Twilight Zone episode “A Quality of Mercy”.

In 1966, Nimoy landed his best known role as the character Spock on the original television series, Star Trek; he remained on the show for its three-year run. He earned three Emmy nominations for playing this character. Following the shows cancellation, Nimoy played a spy on the hit television series Mission Impossible from 1969-1971.

In 1971, Nimoy starred in the Western movie Catlow. He also appeared in a few made for television films such as Baffled (1972), Marco Polo (1982), and A Woman Called Golda (1982), which he received an Emmy award nomination for best supporting actor for a television film. It was also during this time that Nimoy starred in a series of stage roles as well. He appeared in such plays as Fiddler on the Roof, Oliver, Camelot, The King and I, and My Fair Lady.

In the late 1970s, Nimoy returned to his role as Spock for the Star Trek movie. In 1984, Nimoy broke into film directing with the production of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Nimoy would go on to direct Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) and then move beyond the Trek series with Three Men and a Baby in 1987.

Nimoy maintains his connection to the Jewish community, and is an adherent of Reform Judaism. One of his best known roles was that of Tevye in the musical Fiddler on the Roof. In 1997, he narrated, along with Sarah Jessica Parker, the documentary A Life Apart: Hasidism in America, about the various sects of Hasidic Orthodox Jews. In October 2002, Nimoy published Shekhina, a photographic study of women intended to visualize the feminine aspect of God’s presence. He has also been involved in hosting and producting a series of radio programs of great Jewish short stories.

Nimoy has also written two autobiographies, the first one called I Am Not Spock (1977) and the second was entitled I Am Spock (1995). He has also written and published several volumes of poetry, along with much of his photographs. In 2003, he announced his retirement from acting in order to concentrate on his photography, but has continued to appear in various commercial advertisements.

Leonard Nimoy passed away on February 27, 2015, at his home in Bel Air, California.  He was 83 years old.  According to his wife the cause of death was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which Nimoy announced that he was afflicted by just last year.  It is thought that his cigarette smoking habits contributed to the disease, although he quit smoking in the 1980's. 

Sources: Wikipedia, IMDB, “Leonard Nimoy (1931 - ).” American Jewish Historical Society, American Jewish Desk Reference, (NY: Random House, 1999). pg. 473-4; New York Times (February 27, 2014)

Wikimedia, "Leonard Nimoy by Gage Skidmore 2" by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons