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Nobel laureate Tim Hunt resigns over comments on 'disruptive' female scientists

A Nobel Prize-winner has resigned as a professor at a London university after making controversial comments about female scientists. Tim Hunt made the remarks at a conference in South Korea on Tuesday.

In a statement on Thursday, University College London said Tim Hunt had resigned from his position as an honorary professor of life sciences over a conflict in ideologies. "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," it read.

At the World Conference of Science Journalists in the South Korean capital Seoul on Tuesday, 72-year-old Hunt was reported as talking about "my trouble with girls" in laboratories. "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."

Hunt apologized for any offence he may have caused, and called himself a "chauvinist pig." However he stood by his comments on mixed-gender laboratories being difficult and "disruptive" workspaces. "It's terribly important that you can criticize people's ideas without criticizing them and if they burst into tears it means that you tend to hold back from getting at the absolute truth.

"Anything that gets in the way of that diminishes, in my experience, the science."

He told BBC radio on Wednesday that his "light-hearted, ironic comment was apparently interpreted deadly seriously," but that he "just meant to be honest."

Biochemist Hunt was a joint recipient of the

2001 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine,

and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2006. He is also a fellow of Britain's highly-respected science institution the Royal Society, who distanced themselves from Hunt's views.

"Too many talented individuals do not fulfill their scientific potential because of issues such as gender and the Society is committed to helping put this right," it said in a statement.

an/msh (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)

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