American chemist Richard Heck has died in Manila at the age of 84.
Heck has lived in the Philippines and had been married to a Filipina woman, who died in 2012.
Heck won the 2010 Nobel Prize for chemistry with Japanese Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki for inventing new ways to bind carbon atoms that were used in research to fight cancer and produce thin computer screens.
The American was affiliated with the University of Delaware where he developed his work on a palladium as a catalyst, called the “Heck reaction” in the 1960s and 1970s. The two Japanese scientists created their own variants of the same process in the late 1970s.
Heck died after a lengthy illness that left him near penniless. He retired in the Philippines in 2006 with his wife, Socorro Nardo-Heck.
Family members said Heck was often depressed after the death of his wife and had been in and out of hospital since 2013.
Heck suffered a serious bout of pneumonia, prostate cancer, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and slight dementia in the past years.
The Nobel Peace Price winner relied on his pension of $2,500 to get by. He was assisted by two personal nurses, one of whom was with him when he died.
Heck was taken to a private hospital but was refused admission due to numerous unpaid bills.
“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,” his nurse said.
The nurse also said they were forced to take him to a public hospital, where his vital signs deteriorated within hours, until he died.
She said he always spoke of returning to the United States but never did.
“We rearly fought, 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.”
Relatives of Heck’s wife said he had no family in the United States and had no children with his deceased wife.