Professor Launder read Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College receiving the Bramwell Medal for graduating at the head of the class. He then obtained his master's and doctoral degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for experimental research on boundary layers. He rejoined Imperial College in 1964 to serve for 12 years on the faculty as lecturer and then Reader in Fluid Mechanics. He was appointed Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Davis in 1976 where he stayed four years until he accepted the Headship of the Thermo-Fluids Division at UMIST.
His research group, focusing on the mechanics and CFD modelling of turbulent flows, particularly in the presence of strong buoyant or rotational forces, achieved a strong international reputation. He also led experimental research on the internal cooling of gas-turbine blades in order to provide a basis for comparison of the CFD computations. In recognition, Professor Launder has been admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering while he has received many international honours including honorary degrees from three European universities and the Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk. He served two terms as head of the Mechanical Engineering Department (1983-85 and 1993-95) and afterwards took on the chairmanship of the campus-wide Environmental Strategy Group, a role he discharged until the creation of the University of Manchester. He also served as the Regional Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research from its creation in 2000 until 2006.
While retaining his interests in fundamental turbulence modelling, much of his time nowadays is taken up in preparing biographical matter and in editorial work. He was Editor-in-Chief of the International J. Heat & Fluid Flow for 25 years from 1987 and currently serves as a member of the editorial boards of Proc. Roy. Soc. A and Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society.