EastEnders creator Tony Holland has died aged 67 in a London hospital after being unwell for some time, a BBC spokeswoman has confirmed.
Holland created half of EastEnders' original cast of characters
Holland devised the primetime soap with Julia Smith, who he met on the set of Z Cars in 1971. His other credits include Angels, District Nurse and Eldorado.
EastEnders was first broadcast in February 1985 and still regularly draws audiences of up to 10 million.
Executive producer Diederick Santers described Holland as a "true genius".
"All of us at EastEnders are forever indebted to him for creating the programme with the late Julia Smith," he said.
Tony will be remembered with great affection and respect by everyone at EastEnders."
Alan Yentob, BBC Creative Director, said: "Tony was intimately involved in every aspect of the show for the first four years including the classic blockbuster Christmas episode featuring Dirty Den and Angie in 1986."
John Yorke, Controller of BBC Drama said: "Tony's contribution to popular drama and BBC One is immeasurable.
"It's impossible to imagine the BBC without EastEnders and it will stand as the ultimate testament to his career."
It was said Holland created half of EastEnders' original cast of characters, with Smith coming up with the others.
The writer was also involved in casting, and approached actress Wendy Richard to play Pauline Fowler, despite the fact she was originally thought to be too glamorous for Albert Square.
But Richard, then best-known for playing Miss Brahms in Are You Being Served, told Holland: "I'm sick of glamour. I want to play my age."
In 2002, Holland won a special achievement award at the British Soap Awards.