Week 24: Prat – Sir Tim Hunt

by Ray_North on June 15, 2015

prat_iconThis Week’s Prat of the Week is the Nobel Bio-Chemist Sir Tim Hunt

This is by no means a scientific hypothesis, you know, I’m prepared to argue the toss about it – but, it appears to me that if you have the surname Hunt, you are statistically more likely to win our Prat of the Week Award.

Now, I have to admit that at school science was not my bag – I do boast a ‘C’ grade at Chemistry ‘O’level which I got at the second attempt, but concede that I don’t know one end of a bunsen burner from another – as such, I have nothing but respect for those, such as the esteemed Sir Tim, who do know their way around the Empirical Table. However, though I don’t know my Sodium Sulphate from my Sulphur Dioxide, and I may have been too stupid to have got my ‘O’ level Chemmy first time around, I do know that if you tell a room full of female scientists that women shouldn’t be allowed in the same laboratories as men because they ‘fall in love too easily’ and cry when they are criticised, then you are a prat.

What was he thinking?

A joke, he tells us: but all reports are that he spoke for nine excruciating minutes without a single snigger from any of his audience (Sir Tim, should realise that if you’re bombing in front of a room full of analysts, someone is going to time your failure to the nearest second).

Misunderstood and taken out of context he says: but, I’m sorry, Sir Tim, you’re an internationally famous academic, you should, surely, realise that if you say something that is that overtly brainlessly sexist then you deserve everything you get.

The truth is that women have throughout the centuries been absolutely vital to the development of science, one only has to look at Marie Curie or Dorothy Hodgkin and the many others who have contributed massively to humankind. Sir Tim should know this.

He is a prat.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephen Ballentyne June 18, 2015 at 10:56 am

1) Tim Hunt has, for decades, mentored and supported women in science. He has done more for women than 99.9% of those who called for his resignation.

2) Tim Hunt “was always immensely supportive of the ERC’s work around gender equality” (Dame Athene Donald)

3) Tim Hunt made an experience-based assertion, based on over half a century of experience, that men and women working together in labs can be emotionally distracting for both sexes.

4) Tim Hunt commented that a problem he has had, working in labs in the past, is that women tend to cry more when confronted with criticism. Nevertheless he fully supports women in science. “No one seems to mention his main speech in Korea in which, according to the ERC President, he was ‘very supportive towards women in science and he said that he hoped there was nothing that barred women from science’” (Dame Athene Donald). He simply believes, based on his own considerable experience, that single sex labs are more conducive to good scientific research.

5) We may disagree with what Tim says, but we should defend to the death his right to say it.

Please read the other side of the story here and, if you agree, sign the petition to help reinstate Sir Tim Hunt:


(Posted by an ordinary chap and advocate of human rights for both sexes).


Ray_North June 19, 2015 at 7:53 pm

Thank you for your very measured and intelligent response to our award Stephen – I don’t think any of us here have anything but great regard for Sir Tim’s career overall, and would accept that his moment of ‘pratness’ was indeed at odds with the way he usually acts and thinks, though, in saying that, in reality, by saying something so daft, he has probably done more to further gender equality in the lab than he or anyone else could have possibly anticipated.


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