Italian lecturer suspended by CERN for ‘physics invented by men’ speech

An Italian scientist has been suspended by one of the world’s leading leading nuclear research centres after he gave a presentation saying "physics was invented and built by men".

CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, said on Monday it was shocked by the "highly offensive" comments made by Professor Alessandro Strumia from Pisa University at a conference.

The centre also wiped slides from his talk from its website “in line with a code of conduct that does not tolerate personal attacks and insults” and said it was reassessing its relationship with the researcher after an outcry from physicists and scientists around the world.

In his presentation Professor Strumia said male scientists rather than female scientists were suffering from discrimination that was based on ideology rather than merit.

“CERN considers the presentation delivered by an invited scientist during a workshop as highly offensive and supports the many members of the community that have expressed their indignation,” said Arnaud Marsollier, media spokesman for CERN. 

Prof Strumia could not be reached on Monday but has reportedly defended his comments despite the outcry.

CERN, the organisation which discovered the Higgs Boson particle in 2012, hosted the conference on high energy physics and gender in Genoa on Friday. 

“The (scientific) community is in shock,” Mr Marsollier told The Telegraph. “We know physics is dominated by males. This workshop was organised to make progress and that’s why we find it so shocking. We feel it should not happen in future."

In a statement CERN, which appointed its first female director-general, Fabiola Gianotti, in 2016, said it was a “culturally diverse organisation” that brought people together from dozens of nationalities. Mr Marsollier said CERN’s management was meeting on Monday to assess its future relationship with Professor Strumia.

“It is a place where everyone is welcome, and all have the same opportunities, regardless of ethnicity, beliefs, gender or sexual orientation,” the statement said.

“Diversity is a strong reality at CERN, and is also one of the core values underpinning our code of conduct.  The organisation is fully committed to promoting diversity and equality at all levels.”

Dr Jessica Wade, a physicist at Imperial College London who also spoke at the conference, tweeted her disgust over Prof Strumia’s analysis.

“Short summary of Strumia’s talk: women aren’t as good at physics as men and they’ve been allocated too much funding/ been promoted into positions of power unfairly. He said this to an audience of early career #womeninSTEM,” she said.

However, Nico Macdonald, a visiting fellow at London’s South Bank University, said that Prof Strumia’s paper may “well be wrong” but that did not warrant removal.

“It should be responded to scientifically, and politically, not removed as ‘highly offensive’,” he tweeted.

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