Scientist ‘hung out to dry’

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Published: Sunday 14th June 2015 by The News Editor

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A Nobel laureate who resigned from University College London (UCL) after making comments about the ”trouble with girls” in science has said he was the victim of an “enormous rush to judgment”.

Sir Tim Hunt, who was awarded the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine in 2001, reportedly told a conference in South Korea: ” Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.”

He apologised for any offence and resigned from his position as honorary professor with the UCL Faculty of Life Sciences.

But Sir Tim says he was not given an opportunity to explain his statement.

“At no point did they ask me for an explanation for what I said or to put it in context,” he told the Observer.

“They just said I had to go. There has been an enormous rush to judgment in dealing with me.”

He said he had been ” hung out to dry” and added: ” I have been stripped of all the things I was doing in science. I have no further influence.”

A UCL spokesman said: ” UCL was the first university in England to admit women students on equal terms to men, and the university believes that this outcome is compatible with our commitment to gender equality.”

The Royal Society, of which Sir Tim has been a fellow since 1991, distanced itself from his original comments, which sparked a backlash online.

Speaking to the BBC, Sir Tim insisted his remarks were intended to be funny, but reflected that it had been a ”very stupid thing to do” in the presence of many journalists.

”I did mean the part about having trouble with girls. It is true that people – I have fallen in love with people in the lab and people in the lab have fallen in love with me and it’s very disruptive to the science because it’s terribly important that in a lab people are on a level playing field.

”I found that these emotional entanglements made life very difficult.

”I’m really, really sorry I caused any offence, that’s awful. I certainly didn’t mean that. I just meant to be honest, actually.”

Defending his remarks, he added: ”It’s terribly important that you can criticise people’s ideas without criticising them and if they burst into tears, it means that you tend to hold back from getting at the absolute truth. Science is about nothing but getting at the truth and anything that gets in the way of that diminishes, in my experience, the science.”

Sir Tim reportedly described himself as a ”chauvinist pig” at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul and argued in favour of single-sex laboratories .

Published: Sunday 14th June 2015 by The News Editor

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