Sam Simon, a comedy writer and producer who co-developed groundbreaking animated sitcom "The Simpsons," has died after a long battle with colon cancer. He was 59.

Among his many career highlights, Simon "served as the showrunner on the sitcom 'Taxi' at the age of 23; wrote for and produced the comedies 'Cheers' and 'The Drew Carey Show'; and created a Fox series for the legendary stand-up comic George Carlin in the mid-1990s," according to The Hollywood Reporter. He most recently worked as a consultant on Charlie Sheen series "Anger Management."

But Simon was best-known for helping shepherd the creation of "The Simpsons," alongside Matt Groening and James L. Brooks. The trio worked together on "The Tracey Ullman Show," on which Bart and co. first got their start, later giving the Simpsons family its own Fox series in 1989.

"The Simpsons" is now the longest-running primetime series in television history. "Simon also is credited with assembling the show's elite writing team that included Al Jean,George Meyer, John Swartzwelder, Mike Reiss, Jon Vitti and Conan O'Brien," THR writes.

But Simon eventually left the series -- millions in hand -- in 1993 to pursue other endeavors, becoming a dedicated philanthropist who eagerly gave away his fortune. He created dog rescue organization the Sam Simon Foundation, and was a frequent donor to PETA, Save the Children, and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

"He was a genius and a great humanitarian in ways public and private," said "The Simpsons" executive producer Al Jean in a statement. "I personally owe him more than can be repaid, but I will do my best to help every animal I can in his memory."

[via: The Hollywood Reporter]