Chemist Dennis W. Weatherby will forever be associated with one of the United States’ most well known household cleaning products, the automatic dishwasher detergent known as Cascade.
Born in Brighton, Alabama in 1960, Weatherby attended Central State University (CSU) in Wilberforce, Ohio, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1982. From there he moved on to the University of Dayton where he completed a master’s degree in chemical engineering in 1984.
Soon after finishing his studies, Weatherby began working for the Procter & Gamble Company in Cincinnati, Ohio, as a process engineer. Almost immediately he had a major breakthrough at the company at the age of just 27. He was given a chance to lead a team to create a new consumer product and the result was a lemon-scented, liquid dishwashing detergent that would become an instant and long-term success.
With his team, Weatherby developed a solution that employed a category of dyes that could be used in products containing bleach and, at the same time, would give the soap a lemon-yellow color that would not stain dishes. Before his invention, pigments were used in such solutions that often stained dishes and dishwasher interiors. With fellow inventor Brian J. Roselle, he received U.S. patent No. 4,714,562, issued on Dec. 22, 1987, for his breakthrough “Automatic dishwasher detergent composition.” The solution serves as the basic formula behind all of today’s “lemon-scented” cleaning products containing bleach.
Following his stint with P&G, Weatherby briefly worked for the Whittaker Corporation, a division of Morton International. Then, in 1989, he began working for his alma mater, CSU, as an academic advisor and recruiter in the water resources center. According to the school, which has historically catered to African American students, under Weatherby’s leadership the program experienced a more than 400 percent growth in student enrollment with a better than 80 percent retention rate. In 1994 he became an assistant professor of water quality at CSU in its International Center for Water Resources Management.
In 1996, Weatherby moved on to the institution where he had completed his graduate studies, Auburn University, to become director of the school’s new minority engineering program. There he serves as a role model and advisor for black and other young minority men and women and has also chaired external programs such as an undergraduate science symposium for showcasing students’ research from six area colleges and universities. He worked for Auburn until 2006, when he became the Associate Provost for Student Success at Northern Kentucky University, where he served until his death in September 2007.