This week, Nobel-prize winning biochemist Sir Richard Timothy Hunt has come under public scrutiny after making some derogatory comments about women in science — or, to use his word, “girls.” The comments were made during a lecture Hunt delivered at the 2015 World Conference for Science Journalists in Seoul, South Korea. Ironically, the lecture was part of an event that was held to honor women in science.“Three things happen when they [girls] are in a lab… You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry,” claimed Hunt. The renowned scientist and Fellow of the Royal Society also called for sex-segregated labs.It is astonishing that someone of Hunt’s stature who has dedicated himself to scientific discovery could so easily overlook the importance of women’s contributions to science: scientists such as, Agnodice, Émilie du Châtelet, Marie Curie, Lise Meitner, and Rosalind Franklin to name a few.This is yet another instance of the kind of misconceptions and false portrayals of women that arise from the underrepresentation of women in the sciences — a legacy that, to a lesser extent, continues today.During an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, Dr. Hunt issued a somewhat equivocal apology: “I’m really sorry that I said what I said. It was a very stupid thing to do in [the] presence of all those journalists. And what was intended was a sort of light-hearted, ironic comment… was apparently interpreted deadly seriously by my audience. But what I said was quite accurately reported.”Dr. Hunt seems to deny the seriousness of his comments, apparently dismissing them as little more than comical, he goes on to say: “I’m really, really sorry that I caused any offence. That’s awful. I certainly didn’t mean… I just meant to be honest actually.” In neither of these statements does Hunt recant the claims he made.In the aftermath of the incident, a frenzy of condemnation and protest has erupted on social media and various news outlets, and it has emerged that Dr. Hunt has resigned from his position as honorary professor with the University College London.
Published: 7:55 pm, 15 June 2015