David Michael Hercules passed away January 20, 2024, in the loving company of his wife of 53 years and son in Vanderbilt hospital following a battle with cancer. He will be sadly missed by his family: wife Shirley Hoover Hercules, daughter Sherri Kathryn Sokolovich, son-in-law Budimir Sokolovich, son Kevin Michael Hercules, daughter-in-law Marria Paccassi and four grandchildren – Katie Correia, Zackarije Sokolovich, Nikola Sokolovich, and Elizabeta (Ella) Sokolovich.
David was born to Michael and Kathryn (Saylor) Hercules in Somerset, Pennsylvania, August 10, 1932, and spent his childhood in Somerset and Lewistown, Pennsylvania. He developed his interest in science very early with the gift of a chemistry set from his Aunt Elsie. In addition to chemistry, he worked with electronics. With a couple of friends, he developed a functional radio station in Somerset that residents enjoyed. It was reported by a dissatisfied individual and was shut down by the FCC.
In addition to science, David was very interested in music, playing the cornet and the French horn through high school and college. He considered pursuing a career in music, but science won out.
David furthered his interest in science at Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA, receiving his BS in chemistry (1954). He then received his PhD in analytical chemistry from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1957). He later joined the chemistry faculty at Juniata (1960-63) and then at MIT (1963-69), followed by positions at the University of Georgia, the University of Pittsburgh, and Vanderbilt University. At Pittsburgh and Vanderbilt David led the Chemistry Departments, developing a reputation for being fierce yet fair. The reputation of both departments grew under David’s leadership. An accomplished scientist, David earned many honors and awards including Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh Award (1996), the American Chemical Society National Award in Surface Chemistry (1993), The American Chemical Society National Award in Analytical Chemistry (1986), and the Alexander von Humboldt Prize (1983). He was a prolific writer, publishing over 500 research articles. He enjoyed teaching as well as research, receiving the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society.
He enjoyed a brief retirement, during which he pursued his passion for painting. But he soon returned to his first love and took a position as research professor at Vanderbilt, where he maintained a publication record into his nineties. He was beloved through the national chemistry community and influenced countless students and colleagues. He was an absolute gem.
Services for David will be held at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Nashville on Friday January 26. Visitation 2-3:30, Service 3:30.