Sir Tim Hunt, a biochemist who won the 2001 Nobel prize for physiology or medicine, insists that controversial remarks he made Tuesday at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea were "intended as a light-hearted, ironic comment," but he resigned his honorary professorship at University College London on Thursday.
The comment that landed Hunt, 72, in hot water was this: "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 criticize them they cry." On Wednesday, Hunt told BBC Radio 4 that he "did mean the part about having trouble with girls," but that saying it out loud was "a very stupid thing to do in the presence of all those journalists." He continued:
I have fallen in love with people in the lab and people in the lab have fallen in love with me and it's very disruptive to the science because it's terribly important that in a lab people are on a level playing field. I found that these emotional entanglements made life very difficult. I'm really, really sorry I caused any offense, that's awful. I certainly didn't mean that. I just meant to be honest, actually. [Hunt, to BBC Radio 4]
Critics suggested that rather than suggesting segregated labs, Hunt might have been better served avoiding "emotional entanglements" in the lab.