A leaked EU report has shown that Nobel Prize-winning scientist Sir Tim Hunt, who was hounded out of his academic positions for making sexist remarks, was actually joking when he made the comments.
Sir Tim was forced to resign from an honorary position at University College London (UCL) and positions at the Royal Society and the European Research Council after it was reported he told a conference of female science journalists that women should be in separate labs because they have a tendency to cry and fall in love with male colleagues.
Now The Times reports that a leaked document by a European Commission official present at the meeting adds crucial context to Sir Tim’s comments.
It was already reported that he had said: “It’s strange that such a chauvinist monster like me has been asked to speak to women scientists. 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. Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls?”
However, his comments immediately after – now revealed for the first time – say: “Now seriously, I’m impressed by the economic development of Korea. And women scientists played, without doubt an important role in it. Science needs women and you should do science despite all the obstacles, and despite monsters like me.”
The official also denied that Sir Tim thanked women for “making the lunch” as had been previously reported.
The revelation will likely at new pressure on UCL to reinstate Sir Tim to his honorary position. Breitbart London reported on Saturday that eight other Nobel scientists had come out in support of Sir Tim, condemning UCL’s decision and accusing it of bowing to a “lynch mob”.
Richard Dawkins, who has staunchly defended Sir Tim, said the new revelation vindicates him and called for UCL to apologise.
“This phrase, deplorably omitted from all the reports that fed the lynch mob’s appetite, is the final confirmation that Tim Hunt’s remark was light-hearted banter against himself, his irony clearly (not clearly enough, alas) indicating that he is really the reverse of a ‘chauvinist monster’.
“Without wishing to join a reverse witch-hunt to root out the individuals responsible, I can’t help hoping Sir Tim will receive an apology from UCL, Nature and other quarters where they should have known better. This eminent scientist who, by many accounts, has supported women scientists throughout his distinguished career, should be swiftly restored to the honoured place he deserves.”