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  1. ITV Report

Prof Brian Cox defends sacked scientist Sir Tim Hunt

Photo: Matt Faber / PA Archive

TV scientist Professor Brian Cox has hit out at the way a Nobel Prize-winner was "hounded out" of his university job following comments he made about women in laboratories.

Prof Cox said that Sir Tim Hunt had made some "very ill-advised" remarks on women, but that the response had been "disproportionate".

Sir Tim, 72, was forced to resign positions at UCL and the Royal Society after a social media backlash over comments he reportedly made at a conference in South Korea.

He is reported to have claimed that the "trouble with girls" in laboratories was that "you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry".

Sir Tim Hunt resigned from UCL following his comments Credit: PA Wire

He subsequently apologised for the comments, saying they had been intended to be jocular and ironic, but said that he was told that if he did not resign his position at UCL he would be sacked.

Prof Cox acknowledged that while there was a "serious issue" about the "perceived air of sexism" which deterred some women from pursuing careers in science, he said that he did not believe Sir Tim should have been treated in the way that he was.

He said that he was "good person and a great scientist" and that as a man in his 70s, it was "perhaps not surprising" that he was "slightly unreconstructed".

"You can make the argument that senior figures in science have to be first of all aware that there is a central problem of women progressing up to the highest levels of science and secondly therefore have to be mindful of that and careful of their language," he told BBC Radio 4.

"On the other side of course, there is the wider problem of trial by social media. People do make ill-advised comments from time to time so is it appropriate to hound someone out of their position at a university or indeed is it appropriate for the university to react in the way UCL in this case did and ask someone to resign or threaten to sack them?"