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Nobel laureate at centre of female scientists row to leave UK for Japan

Sir Tim Hunt, the Nobel laureate whose comments about women at an international conference caused a furore earlier this year, is leaving Britain for a life in Japan.

Hunt, who won the prestigious science prize in 2001, lost his honorary post at University College London after he spoke at a lunch for female science journalists in South Korea.

He is moving because his wife, Professor Mary Collins, a prominent immunologist, also at UCL, has accepted a position at an academic institution in Japan. The Guardian understands that she applied for the five-year post before the row over her husband’s remarks.

But Collins is known to have been enraged by the way UCL treated her husband. Speaking to the Observer days after the incident, she said that the university had behaved in “an utterly unacceptable way”.

Hunt became embroiled in controversy after reports broke on Twitter that he had called for separate laboratories for men and women, and raised concerns that women cried when they were criticised. Hunt apologised for causing any offence, and said that the remarks were meant as a joke.

During the brief talk in Seoul in June, he referred to himself as a “chauvinist monster”, but added: “I really do hope there is nothing holding you back, especially not monsters like me.”

Two days later, Hunt resigned from a biology awards committee at the Royal Society, led by Sir Paul Nurse, with whom Hunt shared the Nobel prize for his work on cell division.

In a statement issued at the time, the Royal Society said: “It is the great respect that he has earned for his work that has made his recent comments so disappointing, comments he now recognises were unacceptable.”

In October, Sir Colin Blakemore, honorary president of Britain’s science writers’ association, resigned in protest at the organisation’s support for one of their members, Connie St Louis, who tweeted the first accounts of Hunt’s comments.

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