First successful organ transplant donor dies
December 30th, 2010
02:04 PM ET

First successful organ transplant donor dies

Ronald Lee Herrick, the man who made history in 1954 when he donated one of his kidneys to his twin brother, died Monday at the age of 79. It was the world's first successful organ transplant, giving Ronald's brother, Richard, eight more years of life. The medical pioneer died at the Augusta Rehabilitation Center in Maine.

The surgery took place at what is now Brigham and Women's hospital in Boston and lead surgeon Dr. Joseph Murray was awarded the Nobel Prize. At the time,the procedure marked the beginning of a new era in medicine that was so groundbreaking some considered it unethical to take an organ from a human being.

The Herrick brothers helped pave the way for organ donation back in 1954.  Now, 56 years later, organ transplants are much more common. In the first eight months of this year alone, 21,648 people received transplants, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

But according to those who knew him, Herrick's legacy was much more about his gifts as a teacher to than about his kidney donation.  The Boston Globe reports Herrick was a math teacher in Northborough and Winthrop, Maine until retiring in 1986.   He later became a math instructor at the University of Maine in Augusta before retiring again in 1997.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.