Sam Simon, the comedy producer who co-created The Simpsons and wrote for Taxi and Cheers, died on Sunday after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 59.

Born in 1955, Simon began his career writing for Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids in 1979; two years later, James L. Brooks hired him as a a showrunner on Taxi, when Simon was just 26. He also wrote for Cheers, It's Garry Shandling's Show, and The Tracey Ullman Show, where many of the Simpsons characters first appeared.

In 1993, four years after the show's debut, Simon left The Simpsons, in part because of disagreements with co-creator Matt Groening. In The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History, Groening described Simon as "brilliantly funny and one of the smartest writers I've ever worked with, although unpleasant and mentally unbalanced." Simon attributed their rift to a comment he made early on about the show probably being "thirteen and out," or canceled after one season, which Groening apparently interpreted as a lack of commitment from Simon.

Despite his brief time on staff, Simon is credited with giving The Simpsons much of its creative direction, in large part because of the legendary writing team—including Conan O'Brien, George Meyer, John Swartzwelder, Al Jean, Jon Vitti, and Mike Reiss—that he hired.

Since being diagnosed with incurable colon cancer in February 2013, Simon has donated most of his fortune—The Simpsons reportedly made him hundreds of millions of dollars—to PETA (which renamed their headquarters The Sam Simon Center in his honor), Save the Children, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and other charities around the world.

[Image via AP]

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