Garner studied for his undergraduate degree at the University of Nottingham, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree with First Class Honours in 1963, and under the supervision of Prof. Clive Addison subsequently earned his PhD for his work on the "Crystal structures of Group IV metal nitrates" in 1966.
Following his graduation, Garner took up a post-doctoral research fellowship at the California Institute of Technology for one year, before returning to the UK to take up a post as the ICI Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham. He was then subsequently appointed as a lecturer in chemistry at the University of Manchester in 1968, and rose through the ranks to senior lecturer (1978), and finally appointed Professor of Inorganic Chemistry in 1984. Garner was appointed as the Head of the School of Chemistry from 1988 to 1996, and served as a member of the University Court from 1995 to 1999, and as a member of the University Council from 1996 to 1999.
In 1998, Garner took up the post of Professor of Biological Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Nottingham, a post which he held until his retirement in 2010. As such he now holds the post of Professor Emeritus, and is currently the editor for the Royal Society journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A.
Garner has also held the following posts in various establishments around the world:
- Visiting Professor - University of Louisiana (1977)
- Frontiers in Chemical Research Visiting Professor - Texas A&M University (1987)
- Visiting Professor - Strasbourg University (1990-1992)
- Visiting Professor - University of Florence (1995)
- Visiting Professor - University of Arizona (1998)
- Visiting Professor - Sydney University (2000)
- Wilsmore Fellow - University of Melbourne (1994)
- Bye Fellow and Fellow - Robinson College, Cambridge (1997)
- Chairperson of the Chemistry of Metal Ions in Biological Systems (METBIO) programme - European Science Foundation (1991-1997)
Discussion held during the METBIO programme resulted in the creation of the Society of Biological Inorganic Chemistry, for which Garner was the Founding President from 1996 to 1998, and also the creation of its official journal, the Journal of Biological Inorganic Chemistry.
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