I was saddened to hear Leonard Nimoy died. It was even more sorrowful to find that years of smoking had caught up with him. I caught myself thinking: Spock smoked? Why would an ascetic, someone as fastidious about his health and logical about evidence-based science, ever take up smoking? And that mental jump from the actor to the character was what made Leonard Nimoy’s professional life a burden and a blessing—a hazard for many actors who play an iconic character.
About 20 years ago I was working at a photography magazine and attended an event in the Hayden Planetarium where Nimoy was a spokesman. It was for a photography product launch, although memory of what escapes me. There was a lunch and as the tables quickly filled a colleague and I picked one that had a few seats left. There was one empty seat, and Nimoy walked over, asked if the chair was taken and sat down. He barely touched his salad before he was completely bombarded with questions about Star Trek and Mr. Spock, which he politely and warmly answered, before he made a graceful exit. To confess, during the session I was fighting temptation to add to the pile-on, but it seemed to me that he wanted to talk about photography or anything else. I saw firsthand why he had written his 1975 autobiography, I am not Spock, albeit to great uproar from the Trek fan base. I also understood why he followed it with his second installment in 1995, I am Spock. Obviously Nimoy, no matter what he did or accomplished, was stuck with Spock, and decided to embrace his inner Vulcan science officer.
Although he was a successful actor and director after Star Trek ended, I think at a certain point Nimoy realized he could not only tap his character’s persona to promote his own art (photography, music and poetry) but also help educate the public about science in general and space in particular. A recent event where Nimoy beamed the Spock science credibility was when he was on hand to welcome the Enterprise space shuttle to New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. That test shuttle never saw orbit, but in 1976 NASA had been wise enough to heed all the mail it was receiving from Trek fans to exploit the show’s popularity and name it for a starship that only flew in our collective imagination.
So Leonard Nimoy and Mr. Spock, your accomplishments and memory will live long, and we will prosper from it.
— Michael J. Battaglia, Senior Copy Editor
I was eight years old when I first got to know Leonard Nimoy, the way many people did, as Spock on the original Star Trek series. The airing of the first episode on our black and white television was an event in my household. I was an instant and forever fan. Although the flamboyantly emotional William Shatner drew more attention, I was deeply impressed by the idea, embodied in the character that Nimoy brought to life, that science is truly the best adventure. That was plain to me even then, thanks to Nimoy.
— Fred Guterl, Executive Editor
I grew up watching more Star Wars than Star Trek, and I talk with real researchers each and every day for my work, but even so, Leonard Nimoy's sage, chiseled face and sonorous, gravelly voice is usually what comes to mind if I try to think of a dispassionate and level-headed scientist. Well, of course, not so much Leonard Nimoy, but rather the fictional alien Vulcan, Mr. Spock. Nimoy wasn't a scientist, he just played one on television, but his performance was so iconic that, truth be told, most people—me included—often failed to see the distinction between reality and fantasy. The titles of his two autobiographies—"I Am Not Spock," followed by "I Am Spock"—show just how ambivalent he was about the monotony of his fame, particularly given that he was also a talented and thoughtful writer, photographer, and poet. Ironically, it's not just Nimoy who was stereotyped—Spock was, too. In episode after episode (the ones I've seen, anyway), Spock's character demonstrates compassion, sensitivity and tenderness in spite of supposedly being a creature controlled solely by cold, calculated logic. Much like many of the real scientists I know who are formidably, intimidatingly intelligent and rational but by no means inhuman. The truth is that rationality and logic aren't alien traits, but deeply human ones. Leonard Nimoy will always be remembered for embodying the hope that as strange and diverse as the universe and its other intelligent occupants may be, they might yet still be familiar, reasonable, and even loveable. Live long and prosper.
— Lee Billings, Associate Editor
Mr. Spock was always my favorite. As a lanky, laughably quaffed child with questionable social skills, I found his constant fascination with the foibles of human emotion somehow comforting. Here is my kin, I thought, who can stand back from the human race and try to apply logic. So, I was extraordinarily grateful that in the futuristic sounding year, 2000, when as an intern for the Baltimore Sun I got a chance to interview Leonard Nimoy. I think it was 5am his time when he picked up the phone to chat with me about a talk he’d be giving for a Jewish Communities group. He was funny, patient with my goofy fan-boy questions and generous with his time. He has been the only proper celebrity I’ve ever interviewed, and he left a lasting impression.
— Brendan Maher, Features Editor, Nature News
When I first came to Scientific American, I always heard people talking about particular Star Trek episodes as if they were discussing some esoteric points of quantum physics. I could never understand what they were talking about because I never watched Star Trek. It was like they were talking in Azerbaijani. I knew more about William Shatner than Leonard Nimoy because of his Priceline.com ads.
I would sometimes get confused between Star Trek and Star Wars, asking someone about the Wookies in Star Trek, and I would call the Nimoy character Dr. Spock. [Scientific American Managing Editor, Online] Phil Yam always asked me how I ever got hired at Scientific American. He had a point.
I looked up Nimoy on Wikipedia and it said that he was born into an Orthodox Jewish family and was fluent in Yiddish. I'm wondering whether Klingon or Vulcan were dialects of Yiddish:
vavlI' quv Say'moHmeH nuj bIQ vIlo'chugh, nuj bIQ vIlammoH.
If I use spit (mouth water) to clean your father's honor, I only dirty the spit.
See what I mean? How could Mel Brooks top that one?
— Gary Stix, Senior Editor
"I was fortunate to have stage seating for a Broadway production of Equus, in which Nimoy played the part of psychiatrist Dr. Martin Dysart, tasked with determining why a teenage boy committed atrocities against horses. There was no trace of Spock in Nimoy's performance. Because he was more than Spock—he was a fine actor."
— Steve Mirsky, Podcast Editor
I have been following Mr. Spock (aka Leonard Nimoy) since birth. I first remember him fondly being the intellectual counterpoint to the quick acting Capitan Kirk. Things that sticks out to me about him is his genuine love of humanity, his artistry (he was a brilliant photographer and painter) and his musicianship (His albums were introduced to me by a good friend and are available at http://maidenwine.com/catalog.html.)
He one said (and I paraphrase) that Spock was the most human character he had ever played. But perhaps the thing I love most is that he signed off on every Twitter post with LLAP, Live Long, and Prosper. This is one of the most uplifting sayings I can think of, and in truth it was on the end of his last and most genuine Twitter post.
— Michael Mrak, Design Director
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP— Leonard Nimoy (@TheRealNimoy) February 23, 2015