Ronald Lee Herrick, the first to donate a kidney to his twin 56 years ago has passed away because of complications following heart surgery. Herrick was recognized as the first successful organ transplant donor and passed away at the age of 79 at the Augusta Rehabilitation Center in Augusta.

His wife Cynthia said that he had deteriorated health since a surgery in October. Herrick chose to give his kidney to his twin brother Richard at a hospital that is now called Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The operation lasted five and a half hours on December 23, 1954. This has made his brother live for eight years. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, the surgery was the first successful organ transplant. Dr. Joseph Murray, the lead surgeon for the said surgery, won a Nobel Prize after that. Because of the successful operation, people were able to prove the possibilities of a transplant.

Herrick was on a family farm in Rutland, Massachusetts and graduated high school there. Soon he entered and served U.S. Army. He donated his kidney at the age of 23 to his brother who was dying from chronic nephritis which is an inflammation of the kidney.

Many people were skeptical at first and some even tried to oppose it because it required desecration of the body. Some people thought it was unethical to operate on healthy humans. However, Herrick still pushed the operation and luckily, no complications were seen. Soon he married Clare who was the nursing supervisor during the operation. They married in 1959 and chose to relocate to Maine in 1968.

Then after, he taught Math for 37 years in Maine and Massachusetts. Herrick chose not to speak about the operation even to the people he knew. He was described as a humble man and was said to be not too impressed with himself although he was impressive.