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The beleaguered British biologist Sir Tim Hunt has revealed that he was forced to resign from his post at University College London (UCL)
Hunt, who won the Nobel prize in 2001 for his work on cell biology, was the focus of widespread controversy last week after suggesting at a conference in Seoul that women in science were disruptive and prone to crying. He has since apologized for his remarks, which were supposed to be ironic and jocular, he said.
British biologist Sir Tim Hunt
On Monday, June 8, a British academic called Connie St Louis uploaded a sensational document to her Twitter feed. Beginning with the question ‘Why are the British so embarrassing abroad?’.
Really, does this Nobel laureate think we are still in Victorian times?’ she asked.
So began an extraordinary course of events that saw her tweet shared more than 600 times, kick-starting a viral scandal which resulted in the 72-year-old academic, famed for his pioneering work on cell division, being vilified across social media.
Under siege at his Hertfordshire home, he sank into despair.
‘Tim sat on the sofa and started crying. Then I started crying,’ his wife, Professor Mary Collins (herself a prominent scientist) later recalled. ‘We just held on to each other.’
Troubled by Sir Tim’s fate, a collection of eminent scientists, including eight other Nobel Prize winners (and several senior female academics) chose to speak out publicly in support of him.