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MANILA, Philippines – Nobel laureate chemist Richard Heck died in Manila on Saturday, October 10, following a bout of severe vomiting earlier in the week, Reuters reports. He was 84.
Heck won the 2010 Nobel Prize in chemistry, along with Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki, for inventing new ways to bind carbon atoms.
The results were used in researcher for combating cancer and producing thin computer screens.
According to the official Nobel Prize website, Heck’s prize motivation was “for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis.”
Heck developed work on palladium as a catalyst – known as the Heck reaction – in the 1960s and early 1970s. Variants of the same process came about from Negishi and Suzuki’s work in the late 1970s.
Despite earning a Nobel Prize in chemistry, illnesses left Heck surviving on a monthly pension of $2,500.
Two personal nurses took turns caring for Heck during the past year, according to a report from GMA News.
One of the nurses, Jane Rose Pido, said Heck was rushed to a private hospital due to severe vomiting. Heck, however, was reportedly turned away due to unpaid bills.
Of being turned away, Pido told GMA News, “It was painful to see, that the man was fighting for his life but he was left to die, because he did not have money. How could it end up like that? We didn’t know which hospital to take him to, so much time was lost. He could have been revived.”
Forced to take Heck to a public hospital, Pido said his vital signs deteriorated rapidly, until he died.
Speaking of the Nobel laureate, Pido said the American always talked of going back to the US. “We nearly fought,” she said, “because he was insisting that he wanted to go back to the US.”
“He would get his walker, walk outside the house and wait for a taxi, and he would say he was going to the airport to return to the US,” GMA News quoted Pido as saying.
Relatives of Heck’s wife, Socorro Nardo-Heck, said, however, that he had no family abroad. – Rappler.com