Leonard Nimoy, 83: Techies, Trekkies Mourn

Leonard Nimoy inspired several generations of IT pros, engineers, and scientists with his iconic Mr. Spock character on <i>Star Trek</i>.

David Wagner, Executive Editor, Community & IT Life

February 27, 2015

4 Min Read
<p align="left">(Image: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulcan_salute#mediaviewer/File:Leonard_Nimoy_by_Gage_Skidmore_2.jpg" target="_blank">Gage Skidmore</a> via Wikipedia)</p>

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As Mr. Spock would say, it would be illogical for IT Life not to cover the passing of the great Leonard Nimoy, 83. The man inspired several generations of IT professionals, engineers, dreamers, astronauts, artists, and peacemakers. For a man who played a character of pure logic, he sure spawned a lot of emotion in us.

It is so difficult to separate Leonard Nimoy from Spock that even when he tried with his own autobiographies, he titled one I am Not Spock and the second one I am Spock. Nimoy was, by all accounts, highly passionate, a writer of poetry, a photographer, and very spiritual. Nimoy is quoted as saying, "I'm touched by the idea that when we do things that are useful and helpful -- collecting these shards of spirituality -- that we may be helping to bring about a healing."

That doesn't sound very Spock-like, and yet in many ways it is. Remember that Vulcans have deep wells of emotion that they have learned to control. And Spock, being half human, was always the one to slip in a little humanity within all the logic. The great moments of Spock's character always appeared when logic took a back seat for a moment. We were just as ready to believe in Spock as an analyzer of probability as we were to accept him as a being who communicated with whales. Perhaps Spock's greatest line was one of his last, "Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end."

Nimoy imbued Spock with such heart that, rather than becoming a source of mechanical or robotic boredom, he became the emotional center of the story. While Capt. Kirk pontificated and puffed across the screen, Spock showed us the moral center, the reason it all mattered. With a few logical turns of phrase, Spock pushed Kirk to places he never wanted to go, to think in ways he never wanted to think, to act on his better nature.

Kirk made us all want to be astronauts. Spock made us all want to be explorers.

It wasn’t just Star Trek. Nimoy kept pushing the boundaries with In Search of ..., a TV series you have to be a certain age to remember. In Search of ... explored the paranormal and alternative theories to history. It seems odd, in retrospect, that someone who devoted his time to a character dedicated to science would spend so much time talking about Big Foot and UFOs. But, to Nimoy, it must have been about the same thing -- exploring the unknown. In Search of ... spawned a generation of conspiracy theorists, but it also spawned people like you and me, people who wanted to know things, ask questions, and seek alternative answers.

Take this clip as an example. This is an episode about how asteroids will destroy the earth, but the Star Trek spirit was alive and well in the clip as seen through the eyes of scientists and astronauts:

And let's not forget the artist Leonard Nimoy. Let's just call that career hit or miss. There were wonderful hits that I can't show here like these Nimoy's beautiful nudes that were part of his long photography career.

And there were misses like his musical career:

But hey, let's give Nimoy credit for writing the second-best Tolkien-inspired song. No one beats Led Zeppelin's "Ramble On" anyway.

Taken together it was a long and wonderful life. One can't escape saying that he lived long and prospered. And we prospered because he was here. One only needs to look at the flip-phone and the Star Trek communicator to see how Star Trek inspired a generation of engineers. There are countless more examples.

We may have lost him, but he leaves behind a legacy of great shows and a greater impact on us. We will miss him, but he'll never really be gone. He is immortalized in film in giant databases inspired by those he accessed from his seat in the Enterprise. Thankfully, we already have gotten a chance to eulogize him once as he died on screen. Kirk says it of Spock, but I’m pretty sure Shatner and all of us would say it about Nimoy: "Of all the souls I've encountered in my travels, his was the most human."

About the Author(s)

David Wagner

Executive Editor, Community & IT Life

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, leadership, and innovation. He has also been a freelance writer for many top consulting firms and academics in the business and technology sectors. Born in Silver Spring, Md., he grew up doodling on the back of used punch cards from the data center his father ran for over 25 years. In his spare time, he loses golf balls (and occasionally puts one in a hole), posts too often on Facebook, and teaches his two kids to take the zombie apocalypse just a little too seriously. 

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