Bernard Henbest took up the chair of organic chemistry at Queen's University Belfast in 1958 at the age of 33.
By the time Bernard Henbest took up the chair of organic chemistry at Queen’s University Belfast in 1958 at the age of 33, he had already established an international reputation as an organic chemist. He completed his PhD under the supervision of Sir Ewart Jones at Imperial College London. Later, when working as a lecturer in Manchester, Henbest devised, together with Jones, a way to synthesise the steroid cortisone, considered by many at the time to be a wonder drug. Henbest continued an active research programme in Belfast in several areas including biocatalysis of sulphide oxidation and chemocatalysis of ketone reduction.
At the age of 43, Henbest was nominated for fellowship of the Royal Society, which he declined on principle, believing that competition for an FRS distracted lecturers from teaching.
While at Belfast, Henbest became disillusioned with the academic teaching system. He took early retirement in 1973, to concentrate his efforts on education, specifically a broader, more holistic and exam-free curriculum, from primary to tertiary level.