Professor Tim Hunt shocked the scientific community, and pretty much everyone else, with his outrageous comments about his “trouble with girls” and his backwards endorsement of gender-segregated laboratories, which are apparently needed because women are impossibly attracted to him. Understandably, commenters have slammed both his sexist comments and his apology. But the most important people in the story have been drowned out: the women scientists who are living proof of just how wrong Hunt is.
The field Hunt partly created, as well as his own scientific career, have both flourished due to his intellectual collaborations with women, as well as countless other academic partnerships between men and women, notably in the lab of Sir Paul Nurse. Tracing Hunt’s own history, his outburst seems even more astounding.
Hunt’s key breakthrough about the cell cycle, the discovery cyclins, centred on his experiments with sea urchins and clams in the Marine Biology Laboratory, Woods Hole. It was here that he worked extensively with Joan Ruderman, a period he later said “opened up new horizons, not only in learning to deal with new systems, but in the breadth of approaches and interests of scientists who passed through Woods Hole”. In his Nobel lecture, Hunt lauded the simple, but brilliant, experiments of Ruderman and Katherine Swenson, who were the first to show that cyclins bring about cell division. He described their experiments as “electrifying”, saying the women produced a “spectacular result” that “made people sit up and take note”.
The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: The unseen women scientists behind Tim Hunt’s Nobel Prize