William B. Jensen took early retirement on 30 December 2011 after 25 years of service as Oesper Professor of Chemistry at the University of Cincinnati, but will continue on part-time as a McMicken Professor. He was educated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned not only a B.S. and Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry, but an M.S. in education as well. After brief service as an Instructor at Wisconsin and as an Assistant Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Jensen joined the faculty of UC in 1986 as holder of the Oesper Position in Chemical Education and History of Chemistry.
During the next 20 years Jensen rebuilt the department's introductory chemistry course for nonscience majors, as well as its chemical demonstrations program. This reform included a complete review and restructuring of the course's conceptual content based on what is called "the five basic questions" approach to chemistry and integration of the resulting survey of basic chemical principles with selected topics in materials science, geochemistry, ecology, pharmacology and toxicology, During this same period he published over 96 articles in the Journal of Chemical Education. More recently his ideas on curriculum reform in chemical education have also attracted international attention and were made the focus of an international conference on chemical education and the history and philosophy of chemistry held in Bogata Columbia in October of 2011.
However, Jensen's most lasting contribution to UC lies in the field of history of chemistry and his use of the Oesper endowment to establish the Oesper Collections in the History of Chemistry. Beginning with a small collection of photos and rare books left by the late Dr. Oesper, this collection now contains more than 17,000 rare books and journals, 2500 prints and photos, and a museum of antique chemical apparatus containing more than 5000 artifacts. Known internationally, the collections, besides serving visiting scholars, also routinely provide historical images for textbook publishers and, more recently, a five-year project to place the museum on line has also been completed. Jensen's primary motive for taking early retirement and accepting a McMicken Professorship is to devote his attention full time to the collections and to supervising their possible upcoming relocation as a result of projected renovations in Rieveschl Hall. In the field of history of chemistry, Jensen has also served as chair the the American Chemical Society's Division of the History of Chemistry, is recipient of the 2005 international Edelstein Award for Outstanding Achievement in the History of Chemistry, and has served as the founding editor of The Bulletin for the History of Chemistry, the only American-based journal devoted to this subject.
In total, his scholarly publications while at UC in the fields of chemical education, history of chemistry, and inorganic chemistry have numbered more than 266 papers and reviews and four books and monographs. He has also given more than 235 invited national and regional lectures, as well as frequently lecturing to local organizations on the subjects of skepticism and humanism.