A week ago, Tim Hunt was a well-known Nobel Prize winner who was promoting science education throughout Europe and the world.
Today he’s widely perceived as a sexist who has been stripped of most of his positions because of inappropriate comments about women in science.
Gone is his position with the European Research Council science committee, his role at the Royal Society, and his honorary post at University College London. He said Sunday he was fired from the latter, while the university has said only that his resignation was accepted.
Hunt’s fall followed a speech Tuesday at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea in which he said that girls cause trouble in labs because “you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them, they cry.”
The comments caused an instant Twitter storm that quickly led to Hunt, 72, leaving his posts even as he apologized. He has said he had been trying to make a joke, but nevertheless stood by his comment that love affairs in the lab are disruptive to science.
He was vilified by many, including The Guardian’s Anne Perkins, who wrote that his comments were “the educated man’s version” of blaming rape victims because they were wearing short skirts before they were attacked.
Hunt, 72, laments that his cherished career is finished ? and some prominent women scientists who thought his remarks were deeply offensive said Sunday the punishment may be too harsh.
Athene Donald, a leading physicist who is master of Churchill College at Cambridge University, said Hunt always enthusiastically supported her work when she served for five years as Gender Equality Champion at the university.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with him and I’ve never seen any sign of sexism,” she told The Associated Press. “He has traveled the world since he got the Nobel Prize, talking to young audiences, male and female, giving so generously, and now he has been ruined.”
Hunt won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2001 and later was made a knight.
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