Stephen McDannell Hillenburg is an American marine biologist, cartoonist, animator, director, producer, writer, and voice actor, who is best known for creating the Nickelodeon animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants. Born in Lawton, Oklahoma, Hillenburg grew up in Anaheim, California and attended Humboldt State University, earning a bachelor's degree in marine resource planning and interpretation in 1984. After graduating from college, Hillenburg taught marine biology at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point.
In 1992 he enrolled at the California Institute of the Arts to pursue a career in animation. After graduating from CalArts and changing careers, Hillenburg met Joe Murray, creator of Rocko's Modern Life, and joined the show as a writer, producer, and storyboard artist. He began developing SpongeBob SquarePants in 1996 after Rocko's Modern Life was cancelled, asking Rocko's colleague Tom Kenny to voice the titular character. SpongeBob SquarePants premiered on May 1, 1999 and has since aired 188 episodes.