Nobel Prize winner ruined?: Tim Hunt Ruined
Published: June 15, 2015
Nobel Prize winner ruined?: Tim Hunt Ruined, The beleaguered British biologist Sir Tim Hunt has revealed that he was forced to resign from his post at University College London (UCL) without being given a chance to explain his controversial remarks about women in science. “I have been hung out to dry,” he told the Observer in an exclusive interview. “I have been stripped of all the things I was doing in science. I have no further influence.”
Hunt, who won the Nobel prize in 2001 for his work on cell biology, was the focus of widespread controversy last week after suggesting at a conference in Seoul that women in science were disruptive and prone to crying. He has since apologised for his remarks, which were supposed to be ironic and jocular, he said.
However, as a result of the furore, Hunt was told by UCL that he would have to resign his honorary post at the college. “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.”
This point was supported by Hunt’s wife, Mary Collins, who also has a post at UCL, as a professor of immunology. “Tim was still on the plane from Seoul when a senior manager at UCL phoned me and said Tim had to resign his honorary position. They had not even spoken to Tim at that point. He just said Tim had to resign or we fire him. It was very upsetting. We are both extremely angry.”
Hunt was then sacked from his post on the European Research Council’s science committee and has since resigned from other posts, including membership of a Royal Society committee. “I have become toxic,” he told the Observer. “I am finished.”
However, several senior female scientists last week came forward to defend Hunt, including the physicist Dame Athene Donald, the biologist Professor Ottoline Leyser, and the physiologist Dame Nancy Rothwell. All three, although critical of Hunt’s specific remarks about women, spoke warmly about his past support for younger scientists of either gender. “Many will testify to Tim’s great support and encouragement for younger scientists, both male and female. Indeed, he has trained and mentored some outstanding female scientists,” said Rothwell.
Hunt last night issued a detailed apology. “I am extremely sorry for the remarks made during the recent Women in Science lunch at the world conference of science journalists in Seoul, Korea,” he said.
“I accept that my attempts at a self-deprecating joke were ill-judged and not in the least bit funny. I am mortified to have upset my hosts, which was the very last thing I intended. I also fully accept that the sentiments as interpreted have no place in modern science and deeply apologise to all those good friends who fear I have undermined their efforts to put these stereotypes behind us.
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