Organic chemistry underwent a major change with the introduction of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Sternhell's name is closely associated with this development, and he was the prime mover for the introduction of this technique into Australia. He was in charge of the first NMR spectrometer in Australia and he used it extensively; his monograph on this subject (with L. M. Jackman, a fellow Australian) had world-wide success as a textbook for the application of this method; he published numerous research papers exploring various aspects of NMR and developing new applications; and he was the initiator of the National NMR Centre in Canberra. His collaboration with other organic chemists confirmed the great value of NMR. In addition, he made substantial contributions to unrelated areas, such as coal and lignin, tautomerism, organometallic chemistry and non-bonded interactions.