Nobel Prize Winner Makes Shockingly Sexist Remarks At Journalism Meeting

The British scientist, who won the 2001 Nobel Prize in medicine, was giving a talk at a journalism conference when he expressed his support for sex-segregated labs and admitted he has a reputation as a misogynist.

University of Basel / Via biozentrum.unibas.ch

A Nobel laureate has come under fire for shockingly sexist remarks at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul, South Korea.

Tim Hunt, who won the 2001 Nobel Prize in medicine for his work on cell duplication, was speaking at an invitation-only lunch in honor of women in science.

The 72-year-old scientist said that he has a reputation as a chauvinist, and that labs should be segregated by sex.

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls,” he reportedly said. “You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them, they cry!”

Though his comments were not recorded, several science journalists created a “post-hoc transcript,” Ivan Oransky, co-founder of the Retraction Watch blog and editorial director of MedPage Today, told BuzzFeed News by email. Another journalist who was there, Connie St Louis, who directs the science journalism program at City University, London, then tweeted the unofficial transcript:

“I was gobsmacked,” Oransky said. “I wouldn’t treat them as quotes, per se, given the circumstances, but they’re the words he used.”

Hunt is a member of the Royal Society, which quickly distanced itself from the remarks, first tweeting “Tim Hunt’s comments don’t reflect our views,” and then releasing an official statement.

“The Royal Society believes that in order to achieve everything that it can, science needs to make the best use of the research capabilities of the entire population,” it wrote on its blog.

“Too many talented individuals do not fulfill their scientific potential because of issues such as gender and the Society is committed to helping to put this right. Sir Tim Hunt was speaking as an individual and his reported comments in no way reflect the views of the Royal Society.”

Hunt has not returned a request for comment. On Wednesday he told BBC Radio that he was “really sorry,” but was “just trying to be honest.” He also resigned from his position as honorary professor at University College London.

Several women scientists have taken to Twitter to express their disappointment:

That Tim Hunt & others feel comfortable being overtly sexist in public says a lot about the larger environment in science. @connie_stlouis

— Karen James (@kejames)

@connie_stlouis @royalsociety Extremely disappointed to see the RS name associated with this utterly unacceptable and disgraceful language.

— Lorraine Hope (@lorraine_hope)

correction

Tim Hunt did not say “Thanks to the women journalists for making lunch.” This was reported on Twitter, but was later corrected to note that it was said by a female politician.

update

This post has been updated to include Hunt’s resignation from UCL.

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