Jim was Director of the Museum of the History of Science (since renamed the History of Science Museum) for eighteen years. In 2010, the University of Oxford gave him the title Professor of the History of Science. He was a fellow of the Faculty of History and Linacre College, and also held the position of Keeper Emeritus at the Science Museum, London.

Since retirement, Professor Bennett enjoyed a deep involvement with the Hakluyt Society and was President of the Society from 2016 to 2021. He was awarded the Paul Bunge Prize by the German Chemical Society in 2001, the Physics Estoire Prize of the European Physical Society in 2018, the Sarton Medal of the History of Science Society in 2020, and the Agnes Mary Clerke Medal for Historical Research in Astronomy by the RAS in January 2023.

Linacre Principal, Nick Leimu-Brown, said;

“Jim was an important and distinguished scholar, but here in Linacre we knew him as a lovely man. He was a great raconteur, kind and very wise: he will be greatly missed.”