Alfred E. Mann, a pioneering investor and philanthropist whose companies have developed breakthrough medical devices including the first rechargeable pacemaker and an artificial retina that allows the blind to see, died Thursday. He was 90.

A prolific entrepreneur, Mann over the course of seven decades founded 17 companies in fields ranging from aerospace to pharmaceuticals to medical devices. He sold many of those companies over the years, amassing a fortune that once topped $2.2 billion in 2007.

Matthew Pfeffer, chief executive of Mann-backed company MannKind Corp., confirmed that Mann died Thursday in Las Vegas, where the entrepreneur had spent the majority of his time over the past several years.

Pfeffer said he was about to get on a plane to Las Vegas to talk to Mann on Thursday when his assistant called to tell him not to come. Pfeffer later got a call from Mann’s son, confirming that his father had died.

“It’s very sad. He was an inspiration to me and everyone at MannKind,” Pfeffer said.