Sir Tim Hunt resigns from two posts

Nobel laureate Sir Tim Hunt has resigned from his position on a Royal Society committee as well as an honorary UCL professorship

June 11, 2015

Sir Tim contacted the Royal Society today to offer his resignation from its Biological Sciences Awards Committee, which has been accepted.

The Royal Society said that Sir Tim now recognised that the comments he made about women in science earlier this week were “unacceptable”.

It follows his resignation from an honorary professorship at University College London on 10 June.

Sir Tim told the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea on 8 June that he had had “trouble with girls” in his lab.  

“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 reportedly said.

He added that he was in favour of “single-sex labs”.

In a statement the Royal Society said that Sir Tim had made “exceptional contributions to science” through his research on the cell cycle.

“Over the years he has also supported the careers of many young researchers, often travelling tirelessly to support young people all over the world,” it says.

“It is the great respect that he has earned for his work that has made his recent comments so disappointing, comments he now recognises were unacceptable,” it adds.

UCL issued a statement on 10 June saying that Sir Tim had resigned his honorary professorship following his comments.

“UCL was the first university in England to admit women students on equal terms to men, and the university believes that this outcome [his resignation] is compatible with our commitment to gender equality,” says the UCL statement.

The Royal Society, which organised the event at which he spoke, said Sir Tim’s views did not reflect its own. Dorothy Bishop, professor of developmental neuropsychology at the University of Oxford, called on the learned society to ban Sir Tim from any committees that make decisions about fellowships, appointments, promotions and policy since “he clearly has a view of women that just makes him inappropriate in these roles”.

Sir Tim shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Sir Paul Nurse, current president of the Royal Society, and Leland Hartwell, president and director emeritus of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, for their discoveries of key regulators of the cell cycle.

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Reader's comments (2)

This seems so harsh. Couldn't he just be allowed to apologize and be forgiven if he were not to transgress again in the future?
I very much agree with Ellie Kesselman's comment above. Dr. Hunt's remarks should be seen in context: they were jocular remarks (the guy actually met his wife in a lab, so he can't mind that much) not intended to be taken literally, and there must be room in a civilized society to forgive those who misstep in the way they express themselves, or else we create a McCarthyesque culture of fear.