Herschel F. Clesner, 57, a retired chief counsel of the House Committee on Government Operations, died at his home in Silver Spring Thursday after a heart attack.

Mr. Herschel moved to Washington in 1951 and became a microbiologist with the Food and Drug Administration. He was an patent examiner with the U.S. Patent Office.

In the mid-1950s, he then began his career on Capitol Hill. He worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittees on patents and on antitrust matters.

He was an inventions coordinator for the U.S. Public Health Service from 1966 to 1968.

Mr. Herschel then returned to the Hill and joined the staff of the Government Operations Committee.

He was an attorney with the Environmental Protection Agency from 1972 to 1973 and with the Federal Communications Commission from 1973 to 1974. He then returned to the House Operations Committee staff.

He was chief counsel of the Committee's subcommittee on commerce, consumer and monetary affairs at the time he retired in February 1980. He had been an independent consultant since then.

Mr. Herschel was born in Revere, Mass., and was reared in Lebanon, N.H. He was a graduate of the University of New Hampshire. He earned a law degree at the University of Michigan. He also did graduate work in chemistry and pharmacology at Michigan.

Survivors include his wife, Jennie Mae of Silver Spring; three daughters, Sonia and Lisa, of Baltimore, and Debra, of Silver Spring; two sons, Michael and David, also of Silver Spring, and a sister, Maureen Taub of Saratoga Springs, N.Y.