Nobel Prize-winning scientist Tim Hunt has resigned from his honorary professorship at University College London following controversial comments he made about women working in laboratories.
Earlier this week, 72-year-old Hunt, who won the 2001 Nobel Prize in medicine for his work on cell division, spoke at a women’s lunch at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul, making his case for gender-segregated labs.
“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls,” he said. “Three things happen when they are in the lab. … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry.”
The comments drew widespread outrage, intensified by continuing concerns about sexism in the sciences and a shortage of women in science and technology.
Granted, he also called himself a “chauvinist pig.”
The university confirmed in a statement that Hunt had stepped down from his role “following comments he made about women in science.” The university said it 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 Hunt is a fellow, has also released a statement making clear that Hunt’s comments do not reflect the group’s views.
“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,” the society said in a statement. “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 since apologized, claiming his comments were meant to be “light-hearted” yet “honest,” while still standing by his argument.
“I did mean the part about having trouble with girls, I mean it is true that I have fallen in love with people in the lab and that people in the lab have fallen in love with me,” he told BBC Radio on Wednesday. “It’s very disruptive to science.
“I’m really really sorry that I caused any offense, that’s awful. I just meant to be honest, actually.”