And yet he met his wife there

Witless UCL Professor Sir Tim Hunt was forced to resign last night after jokingly claiming men and women could not work together in the lab.

The 72-year-old was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2001 for his work on how cells divide, but his intelligence escaped him when he branded himself a “chauvinist” and made some cack-handed comments about working with women.

Blundering through a conference in South Korea, he 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.”

Sir Tim Hunt

Sir Tim Hunt

His words sparked outrage with the scientific community, as Oxford Neuropsychology Prof Dorothy Bishop said: “The comments get at the heart of bias against women in science: the notion that we can’t be serious contenders because we are too emotional, and, even worse, we distract the men from their science by our sexual allure.”

Last night, UCL announced Sir Tim had resigned, adding: “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.”

Sir Tim’s wife, UCL Immunology Professor Mary Collins insisted he had made “a light-hearted and ironic comment” which had been “interpreted deadly seriously”.

UCL_Gower_Street

Meanwhile, Sir Tim told the BBC he was just “being honest”.

Speaking on Radio 4, he said: “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.”

Sir Tim was referring to his own experience as he met his wife in the lab, directing her Biochemistry studies at Cambridge.

He has stood by his comments, adding: “I did mean the part about having trouble with girls.

“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.”

@benforeman_

  • Tom

    Welcome to Feminist Britain where men are forced to resign over light-hearted jokes, but women can joke on national television about men being raped and mutilated and that’s fine

    • A Feminist

      go ahead and post an example of women joking on TV about raping men

      feminists are against rape in all forms and all victims. what have you done to help support male rape survivors recently? :)

      • Tom

        There was one episode of Loose Women where they openly laughed and joked on air about a man having his penis cut off by his girlfriend. No action was taken against them. Feminism in action right there.

        • A feminists

          Feminists want that to stop, too.

          • Tom

            The problem with feminism hun is that feminists say one thing and do another

            • Zombie Voltaire

              The “problem” with feminism is that, like any other label, a wide variety of people are covered by it. There’s no transcendent view between all who identify as/are identified as “feminist”.

              • Tom

                Ok, but my issue is that the general mainstream of feminism hold absolutely ridiculous toxic hypocritical views.

  • They’re not mutually exclusive

    Just because he met his wife there doesn’t mean that she didn’t cry in the lab.

    • Zombie Voltaire

      More to the point: It gives an autobiographical context to the comments that greatly helps us figure out what on earth he was trying to say. Which seems to be something along the lines of “inter-personal relationships in high pressure environments can be difficult, especially when there’s a potential for romantic involvement, and this creates problems for the people working in those environments”.

  • Oly

    So much sexual distraction for Pierre and Marie Curie that they didn’t manage to win a Nobel prize together and manage a relationship in the lab. If he gets too distracted by any girl passing by then the problem is with him and not with men and women working together

    • Zombie Voltaire

      Gee… what a nice straw man you have there!

  • This whole episode is dumb

    Congratulations to UCL for forcing one of the best academics in the country to resign (essentially sacking him in all but name) over an ill judged attempt at a joke. His comments were a silly attempt at humour, not a serious commentary on the state of women in science. This was definitely not a resigning issue. Seriously, we wonder why we’re falling behind in the league tables….

    You’ve given in to the Twitter hate mob. Shame on you all. His forced resignation is a great loss to academic life at UCL.