South African Institute for Tribology
Official Blog

A Tribute to Doug Herschelll, SAIT Founding Member and President from May 2018 to July 2020

Doug Herschell

From Patrick Swan, SAIT Vice-President, and on behalf of the SAIT Executive Committee, 2019/20:

Doug was mentor to many people during his life because he cared so much for people and their aspirations. He was enduringly honest, and disliked dishonesty in others: that was a quick way of losing his support and friendship.

Doug had one of the greatest enquiring minds that I have ever connected with.He read deeply and had an impressive library.On one hand science, in all forms, but particularly chemistry and physics, and on the other hand history, both of our universe, and of the cultures of our world.He always amazed me with his knowledge of the universe, from the big, astronomical picture, to the smallest atomic structure.

Lubrication, and particularly lubricant development were an early passion for Doug, which he followed all his life, leaving us with his heritage of Herschell Lubricants.Herschell Lubricants are probably as well-known globally as they are in South Africa, which is a massive tribute to his knowledge and research skills.Anyone meeting in his office was always overwhelmed by the number of new product experiments that were on every available space, and even over the windows.

Planning, management and negotiating were Doug’s major strengths, but his family always took precedence.The last time we spoke, only days before his death, he was thrilled to have his family able to visit him in hospital, having come out of ICU, and so looking forward to spending time with his grandson.

It was natural that Doug was a foundation member of the SAIT, and remained a member in good standing ever since it was formed.Along the way he was awarded the Louw Alberts Award, which is presented for an outstanding contribution to tribology over the years in Southern Africa, and was elected as President of the SAIT in 2018.His passion for tribology and the SAIT was a welcome boost to the institute.When elected he was in hospital, in traction after a fall, and sadly he is the only President to die in office, after his almost 20 year battle with cancer.

Right up to the end his mind was clear, he was still reading his science publications, and planning how to improve the SAIT.

From the SAIT Secretariat:

It is with great sadness that the SAIT announces the passing of Mr Doug Herschell, b. 19 July 1942, d. 22 July 2020, aged 78, after his bravely-fought battle with cancer.

In 1985, he became one of the founding members of the South African Institute of Tribology (SAIT), and has remained a loyal member in good standing since then. In 2018, he became President of the Institute, to which he continued to contribute his valuable knowledge, experience and business acumen – and his personal joy in life.

In 2018, Doug received the SAIT Louw Alberts Award in recognition of ‘his significant contribution to tribology and the SAIT, through driving the fundamentals of tribology, and understanding the application, operating condition, base fluid and chemistry required to solve tribological issues’.

Doug’s career in the lubricant industry spanned more that 55 years; his experience in ‘formulating and technicalities earned him an enviable title as “the go-to man” for bespoke industrial lubricant and aerosol solutions’. A year after joining the SAIT, in 1986, he joined Peter, Anne and Colin Gillespie at Swift Industrial, leading this company in growing from 1 product, Herschell Electogliss, to over 400 product lines in 7 countries.

During his years as SAIT President, Doug frequently ‘popped in’ to the SAIT offices at Science Park, bringing along spicey cookies or biscuits and marvellous conversation; at these times, he signed documents and canvassed for advice and participation in many projects through lively phone calls to members, colleagues and friends.

He entertained us with stories of his many journeys on ‘Spaceship Earth’, having lived life to the full throughout his 78 years. We soon learned of his love for his family – his wife, daughters and grandchildren; his passion for scientific research and creation, all enthusiastically enjoyed by Gill, Berice and Isabel; and his delight in all things astronomical. His passion and joy in life – even when fighting the cancer that attacked him, with all the tools that modern medical research could offer him – made him a wonderful companion.

The SAIT will remember their President, Doug Herschell, with fondness and great respect.

Thank you, Doug, for your hours, days, months and years of loyalty and your valuable contributions to the SAIT over the last 35 years.

The SAIT’s condolences go to Doug’s family in this time of loss; and our thanks to them, too, for sharing him with all of us.

Rest in Peace, Doug – and as was said in the Tribute sent to us by Swifts Industrial – we ‘have no doubt that your viewing of the landing on Mars will be far better from where you are now.’

(Some quotations taken from the Tribute to A Great Man received from Grant Gillespie of Swift Industrial, the company that Doug helped run for many years)

From Lucas Lee and Staff:

On behalf of Lucas Lee staff, our condolences to you and Doug’s family . I am sure that he will be greatly missed by his colleagues and friends.

From STLE:

We’re so sorry to hear about Doug’s passing! Our condolences to all of you.

From Hentie Spangenberg at Shell:

A really sad and big loss. Please give our condolences to the family.

From Amanda Jonker at Multotec:

My condolences on the passing of Doug. ☹

From Howard Benade, SAIT Member:

I am sorry to hear about Mr Doug Herschell… This is very sad news and also a great loss to the industry.

From Eben du Plessis, SAIT Executive Committee Member:

I have known Doug for more than two decades and regarded him as a real gentleman and balanced business man . What I really appreciated of Doug, was his unselfishness to readily share knowledge of aerosols and its use in dosing lubricants. His enthusiasm and business like leading of the SAIT despite his health constraints, set an example of leadership to make me proud to being associated with the SAIT.

South African Institute of Tribology

Understanding lubrication, friction and wear


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