Stephen Hillenburg, the man behind the popular cartoon character, SpongeBob Squarepants, has died at the age of 57.

In 2017, Stephen disclosed that he had been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

According to the the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, USA, ALS is a group of rare neurological diseases that mainly involve the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement.

In a statement by Nickelodeon, the cartoon channel Stephen worked with in creating Spongebob, the cartoonist passed away on Monday night.

The statement read: "We are incredibly saddened by the news that Steve Hillenburg has passed away following a battle with ALS. He was a beloved friend and long-time creative partner to everyone at Nickelodeon, and our hearts go out to his entire family. Steve imbued ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ with a unique sense of humor and innocence that has brought joy to generations of kids and families everywhere.

"His utterly original characters and the world of Bikini Bottom will long stand as a reminder of the value of optimism, friendship and the limitless power of imagination.”

Stephen was born in August 21, 1961 at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma. He started his career in animation in 1987. Before diving into this field, he was a marine biology teacher. In 1993, he began working with Nickelodeon as a director and writer on a series, 'Rocko's Modern Life', after which he began working on a series that eventually became 'Spongebob Squarepants'. Its first episode aired on May 1, 1999.

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