Trevor Grenby 1934 - 2013

Before arriving in Aberystwyth to take his first degree in agricultural chemistry in 1952, Trevor Grenby’s only link with Wales was his first name.  And that link was somewhat spurious; he was called Trevor in an approximate reversal of the name of his grandfather, Robert.  Nevertheless, though a Londoner by birth, he immediately fell in love with Aberystwyth and its surroundings, spending many happy days, when not glued to his laboratory bench in the chemistry building, exploring the area, and returning on several occasions throughout his later life with his wife and sons.

After gaining his BSc, he became one of the last group of National Service conscripts, but managed to be invalided out of the army after only a few months on account of the severe chilblains he suffered whilst on parade.  Returning to London, he secured a post at St Thomas’s Hospital which enabled him to start work on a PhD.

Several years later, and with a doctoral thesis on the synthesis of alkyl mercapturic acids under his belt, he cast around for his first ‘proper’ job, alighting on a post at the Association of British Flour Millers’ Cereals Research Station, then located in St Albans, Hertfordshire.  It was there that he embarked on what became his lifetime’s work: the effects of various foodstuffs on dental health, particularly in regard to caries (dental decay).  He stayed at the CRS for several years, but no sooner had he married and built a home in the city than he was offered the post of Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Oral Medicine at Guy’s Hospital Dental School, where he remained for the duration of his career, becoming one of the thousands of daily commuters into London.

Over the next 30 years, he progressed up the ranks from Assistant Lecturer to Senior Lecturer, ultimately becoming Reader in Nutrition in Relation to Dentistry at the GKT (Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’s) Dental Institute, and impeded from securing a richly-deserved personal chair only by the fact that he had never acquired a dental qualification.  Nevertheless, with a particular interest in the dental aspects of the use of artificial sweeteners, he soon became one of the world’s foremost experts on the topic.  Consulted by commercial companies, including the leading international manufacturers of confectionery, soft drinks, infants’ drinks, snack foods and the like, he was labelled in a Daily Mail report on the results of his research as “one of the world’s top tooth experts” – a not inappropriate description as his lab was on the 28th floor of Guy’s Tower, for a long while one of the tallest buildings in London.  Apart from a host of papers, his principal publications during the 1980’s and 90’s were a series of books – Developments in Sweeteners I, II and III, Progress in Sweeteners and Advances in Sweeteners, which have remained among the definitive volumes on the topic.  From 1988-1990, he was chairman of the Food Chemistry Group of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Trevor retired at the age of 65, with the intention of devoting more time to his many outside interests: wood-carving and sculpture; playing the saxophone in a trad jazz band (he had also mastered the clarinet and the banjo before taking up the sax); playing tennis; gardening and travel.  Sadly, the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease combined with an element of Parkinson’s, which saw a steady but marked diminution of his abilities, put paid to his plans.  The calamity of his illnesses was that they forced inactivity, both intellectual and physical, onto someone who could abide neither.  The rich retirement he’d planned was pitilessly curtailed.

His many qualities, appreciated by a wide circle of friends and colleagues across the globe, included wit, good humour, uprightness, equability, courtesy, consideration for others – all of them in evidence alongside his famed inability to remember anybody’s name, or indeed face.  He is survived by his wife, Jeanette, his two sons, Matthew and Edmund, and four grandsons, the latest born just four days after he passed away.

Dr T H Grenby, PhD, FRSC, CChem, born 5 June 1934, died 6 July 2013, at the age of 79.