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Sir Tim Hunt loses university job after comments on 'trouble with girls' in laboratories

Sir Tim has apologised but says he 'did mean' what he said

Adam Withnall
Thursday 11 June 2015 16:27 BST
Sir Tim Hunt, meeting the press in 2012
Sir Tim Hunt, meeting the press in 2012 (Getty Images)

A Nobel laureate scientist who spoke out against having “girls” in laboratories has lost his job as a lecturer at a UK university.

Sir Tim Hunt apologised for the comments but said he “did mean” them, and University College London confirmed on Wednesday night that he has resigned.

He had reportedly said: “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.”

The comments were made during the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea on 9 June, and the scientist told the BBC it was “a very stupid thing to do in the presence of all those journalists”.

Awarded the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine in 2001, the biochemist was knighted in 2006 and held the role of honorary professor at UCL’s Faculty of Life Sciences.

In a statement, the university said: “UCL can confirm that Sir Tim Hunt FRS has resigned from his position as honorary professor with the UCL Faculty of Life Sciences following comments he made about women in science at the World Conference of Science Journalists on 9 June.

“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, has already distanced itself from the comments, which sparked a backlash online.

Sir Tim told the BBC: “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'm really, really sorry I caused any offence, that's awful. I certainly didn't mean that. I just meant to be honest, actually.”

Sir Tim has reportedly admitted to being a “chauvinist pig” since making the comments, and he told the BBC that he had intended them to be funny.

But Connie St Louis, a lecturer in science journalism at City University, said she was in the audience at the time Sir Tim made the “awful” comments, and said they were greeted with silence.

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