Grant Imahara, the electrical engineer and roboticist who rose to fame as a host of the show “MythBusters,” died Monday at the age of 49, according to Discovery Channel.
In a Monday night statement, Discovery confirmed the death of Imahara, an enthusiastic influence in the popular science world best known for building robots and operating electronics on the hit show for a decade.
“We are heartbroken to hear this sad news about Grant. He was an important part of our Discovery family and a really wonderful man,” the statement said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
A cause of death was not immediately released by the company. The Hollywood Reporter reported that Imahara died of a brain aneurysm.
Imahara joined “MythBusters” in its third season in 2005 after an invitation from host Jamie Hyneman. For more than 200 episodes, Imahara, lovingly referred to as the “geek” of the show’s build team, wowed audiences by bringing tech to life through his ability to design and operate complex robotics that helped test myths in subjects ranging from skydiving to driving stunt cars.
On social media, colleagues and friends were devastated over the engineer’s sudden death.
Adam Savage, a former co-host who also worked with Imahara at Lucasfilm, said he had “been part of two big families of Grant Imahara over the last 22 years,” and that he was honored to call him a friend.
“I’m at a loss. No words,” Savage tweeted. “Grant was a truly brilliant engineer, artist and performer, but also just such a generous, easygoing, and gentle PERSON. Working with Grant was so much fun. I’ll miss my friend.”
Kari Byron, who was a part of the “MythBusters” build team with Imahara, posted photos on Instagram with the caption, “Somedays I wish I had a time machine.” Her shock was echoed by Tory Belleci, another member of their team.
“I just cannot believe it. I don’t even know what to say,” Belleci tweeted. “My heart is broken. Goodbye buddy.”
Born Oct. 23, 1970, in Los Angeles, Imahara saw science fiction, namely the droids in “Star Wars,” as an inspiration for creating and engineering robots. He “never wanted to be James Bond” growing up, he said to Machine Design magazine in 2008. Instead, he preferred Q, Bond’s colleague and the head of research and development, because “he was the guy who made all the gadgets.”
“I liked the challenge of designing and building things, figuring out how something works and how to make it better or apply it in a different way,” he told Machine Design. “I guess you could say that engineering came naturally.”
Before Imahara joined “MythBusters” in 2005, he was a decorated engineer at Lucasfilm, where he worked in the company’s visual effects department for nine years on blockbuster trilogies such as the “Star Wars” prequels and “The Matrix.” He was one of the few officially trained operators for R2-D2, the beloved droid of the “Star Wars” universe, according to Discovery.
In addition to engineering the rhythmic beat for the Energizer Bunny in its TV commercials, he was responsible for creating “Geoff Peterson,” deemed by Imahara as “the world’s first robotic skeleton sidekick” for host Craig Ferguson of “The Late Late Show.”
“I will be forever grateful to him for designing, building and maintaining Geoff Peterson,” tweeted Ferguson early Tuesday, who said he was “shocked and sad” over Imahara’s death.
After departing “MythBusters” in 2014, Imahara hosted Netflix’s “The White Rabbit Project,” reuniting with former colleagues Byron and Belleci for another science investigation show in 2016. The series lasted one season.
On social media, fans thanked him for his enthusiasm and passion, which influenced some to get into robotics. Others noted that his presence as a Japanese American on television was inspirational.
“Grant was one of the reasons why I joined the robotics team in high school,” a fan tweeted, “I watched so much mythbusters as a child and wanted to create things like he did.”
Last year, Imahara told cosmologist Neil deGrasse Tyson that he was hoping the next generation of young creators would maintain their creative spirit, much like he did decades ago in Southern California, as a way to keep advancing robotic engineering.
“If we keep dreaming and allowing these kids to have these dreams and have these experiences, some day they will be able to create them in reality,” he said.