Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, has died at the age of 57.
In 2017, Hillenburg revealed that he had been diagnosed with ALS. The neurodegenerative disease causes the death of neurons which control a person’s voluntary muscles, leading to eventual paralyzation.
The average life expectancy for those afflicted with ALS is between two and five years, and there is currently no cure.
Hillenburg spent the early part of his life teaching marine biology before pursuing a career in animation. After cutting his chops on Rocko’s Modern Life, Hillenburg successfully developed his own animated series in SpongeBob SquarePants. .
The marine-themed cartoon starring a high-energy sea sponge premiered in 1999 and remains in production as of today. Now one of the longest-running shows in TV history, a total of 209 episodes of SpongeBob have aired to date in addition to two feature-length films.