He served as a Research Associate at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1971 he was appointed lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemical Technology at Imperial College, London. He was successively Reader in 1979, Professor of Chemical Physics in 1985, and head of the Department of Chemical Engineering in 1988.
In 1996 he was appointed Pro-Rector (Research) and subsequently also Deputy Rector and Pro-Rector (Resources) at Imperial College, holding these positions simultaneously. He oversaw the college's medical school formation in 1997 from the merger of St Mary's Hospital Medical School, Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School (formerly Charing Cross Hospital Medical School and Westminster Hospital Medical School), the Royal Postgraduate Medical School and the National Heart and Lung Institute.
In 2007 the then Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, Rt. Hon. John Denham MP invited him to chair a review of UK physics which reported in October 2008.
He is a Visiting Professor at Imperial College. He is a member of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and chairs their Resource Audit Committee. He is a member of the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) Board. He is a member of the European Union expert panel on philanthropy and universities. He is UK Chair of the British-Italian Partnership Programme.
He was knighted in the 2009 Birthday Honours. He was President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers 2011–2. He is a Chartered Engineer, Chartered Physicist and Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institution of Chemical Engineers, the Institution of Electrical Engineers, the Institute of Physics and Imperial College London. He is a Touloukian Medal holder from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (1997) and holds honorary degrees from Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Exeter University, Loughborough University
He married Christina Marjorie Stone in 1969 and they had one son. They divorced in 1974. He married second Sylvia Frances Tolley in 1978 and they had two sons.
- "List of Fellows".
- Debrett's People of Today Archived 23 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
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- "No. 59090". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 June 2009. p. 1.
- www.icheme.org Archived 29 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine News 23 May 2011 "Sir William appointed new IChemE president"
- 2003 Fellows of Imperial College Announced
- Exeter Honorary Degree
- "Loughborough Honorary Graduates 2010". Archived from the original on 2 October 2012. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
- Wakeham, Sir William (Arnot)’, Who's Who 2014, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2014; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2013; accessed 2014_01_26
Sir Howard Joseph Newby
| Vice Chancellor University of Southampton
2001 - 2009
Professor Don Nutbeam