Paul Nurse, friend to Tim Hunt and co-recipient of the Nobel prize, had a few things to say.
Sir Tim Hunt deserved to lose his job over his infamous “trouble with girls” speech, the President of the Royal Society has said.
Sir Paul Nurse, a joint-Nobel Prize winner and friend of Sir Tim, told the Telegraph the embattled professor’s “chauvinist” comments had “damaged science”.
Of course, he didn’t really lose a job — he lost an honorary position, as I’ve been saying repeatedly. I have learned that he lost the accompanying photocopying privileges at UCL, which is the biggest cost to him I’ve heard yet.
Nurse’s comments are entirely sensible, and in defiance of all those people who have been shrieking in protest about a Nobel prize winner being criticized.
“Tim is a lovely man and I have known him a long time,” he said. “But there is no question about it, he did say some stupid things which cannot be supported and they had to be condemned. He said he was a chauvinist and that is not acceptable.
“It is sad because since I started working as a researcher in the late 1960s there have been really significant improvements and this kind of thing tends to set things back.
“The Royal Society can come across as old fashioned because you stay a member until you die so it can seem that we’re 30 years behind the times. But half of the Council are now women and we have a lot of initiatives to improve diversity. We have a Diversity Committee and allow mothers or fathers to work half time. Most other companies don’t do that.
“So it’s frustrating when things like this happen which make the Society seem out of touch.”
One thing I’ve learned from all this noise is that Tim Hunt was right about one thing.
“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls,” the 72-year-old told the audience in South Korea. “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.”
Compounding the faux pas, Sir Tim then appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme admitting that he ‘did mean’ his comments and saying it was ‘terribly important’ to be able to criticise scientists without them bursting into tears.
Exactly. Even extremely senior scientists with prestigious awards.