LONDON — A Nobel Prize-winning British scientist apologized Wednesday for saying the "trouble with girls" working in laboratories is that it leads to romantic entanglements and harms science. But Tim Hunt stood by his assertion that mixed-gender labs are "disruptive."
Hunt, 72, made the comments at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea, according to audience members. Connie St Louis of London's City University tweeted that Hunt said when women work alongside men in labs, "you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them, they cry."
Hunt, a biochemist who was joint recipient of the 2001 Nobel for physiology or medicine, said he was just trying to be humorous. He told BBC radio on Wednesday that he was "really, really sorry I caused any offense." Then he added: "I did mean the part about having trouble with girls. ... 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."
Hunt is a fellow of the Royal Society, one of Britain's most eminent science bodies, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2006. The Royal Society said it did not share Hunt's views. It said in a statement that "too many talented individuals do not fulfil their scientific potential because of issues such as gender and the society is committed to helping to put this right."
Update for 8 p.m. ET June 10: Hunt resigned Wednesday from an honorary professorship at University College London. A statement posted by the school read in part: "UCL was the first university in England to admit women students on equal terms to men, and the university believes that this outcome is compatible with our commitment to gender equality."