Irvine Grote

SCIENTIST
UT Chattanooga, ’22

grote-irvine

Part of the Tennessee Alumnus’ 100 Distinguished Alumni feature.

How do you spell relief? R-O-L-A-I-D-S.

Today’s heartburn relief may never have been available without Irvine Grote’s invention of dihydroxy aluminum sodium carbonate. And because of his efforts, many of us can now pass the acid test.

At the time, Grote was head of the chemistry department at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. His work may have contributed a more calming impact on people, but according to former student Chester Martin in an article for the Chattanoogan newspaper, Grote was always hurrying around. He also was “the sort of person that could readily break into a laugh.”

Aside from his reputation for running around campus in a suit and tie, Grote also was known for holding 75 patents in his field of chemistry. He graduated from what was still the University of Chattanooga (now UT Chattanooga) in 1922, and he earned a master’s degree from Columbia University in New York in 1923 and a doctoral degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1925.

Grote began his career at pharmaceutical manufacturer William S. Merrell but left to begin working for Michigan-based Parke, Davis and Co. A few years later, in 1931, he returned to Chattanooga to take a job as an associate professor of chemistry at UTC. Within 10 years, Grote became head of the chemistry department and a scientific advisor for Chattanooga Medicine Company, which later became Chattem. It was in 1955 at Chattem that his key chemical compound became the active ingredient in Rolaids.

Grote died in 1972, rumored, according to the Tennessee Encyclopedia, to have left behind a collection of 3,000 bottles of wine and liqueurs from around the world. His passions for chemistry and education are celebrated at his alma mater, where the science building, Grote Hall, bears his name.