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‘Doomsday Clock’ professor put on leave amid allegations of sexual misconduct

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Johnny Depp joined renowned theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, founder of Arizona State University's Origins Project, for a talk Saturday, March 12, 2016. Johnny Depp joined renowned theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, founder of Arizona State University's Origins Project, for a talk Saturday, March 12, 2016.

PHOENIX — Arizona State University professor Lawrence Krauss, internationally known as an outspoken atheist and for his work on the symbolic "Doomsday Clock," has been put on paid leave by university officials after allegations of sexual misconduct were published in a recent BuzzFeed article.

The university, in a statement issued late Tuesday, said it began a review of the professor's conduct after it was contacted for the article. 

"In an effort to avoid further disruption ... as the university continues to gather facts about the allegations, Krauss has been placed on paid leave and is prohibited from being on campus for the duration of the review," ASU said in a written statement.

Krauss, a theoretical physicist known internationally for his work, has denied the story's allegations. It includes at least nine allegations of inappropriate behavior or comments, some more detailed than others.

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On Tuesday, Krauss resigned as chairman of the elite Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' board and reiterated that denial in a resignation letter to the board. 

"As you know, I have denied the story's allegations. BuzzFeed was provided with abundant counter-evidence that was ignored or distorted in their story," he wrote in the statement. 

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is perhaps most famous for its "Doomsday Clock," a symbolic pronouncement issued each year based on whether the events of the previous year have pushed humanity closer or further from destruction. 

Krauss, 63, is a prolific author and speaker who was recruited to ASU in 2008 to become the inaugural director of the Origins Project at ASU. The research project explores questions about origins of the universe, human origins and origins of consciousness and culture. Krauss has an extensive Twitter following.

The Origins Project sponsors an annual Origins Symposium where it brings together leading scientists and thinkers for discussions and presentations. 

Lately, though, Krauss has received less than flattering attention. 

He was the subject of a lengthy BuzzFeed article on Feb. 22 that accused him of inappropriate behavior over the last decade, "including groping women, ogling and making sexist jokes to undergrads, and telling an employee at ASU, where he is a tenured professor, that he was going to buy her birth control so she didn’t inconvenience him with maternity leave.”

Krauss denied all of the accusations to BuzzFeed, calling them “false and misleading defamatory allegations.” 

“It is common knowledge that celebrity attracts all forms of negative attention from many different angles,” Krauss told BuzzFeed in an email. “There is no pattern of discontent revealed here that suggests any other explanation.”

Some of the groups Krauss is associated with have moved to distance themselves from him amid the allegations. 

The American Physical Society, for instance, withdrew its invitation for Krauss to talk and participate in its April meeting in Columbus, Ohio. 

In a statement, the society said, "This action was taken following reports of allegations of sexual misconduct against Prof. Krauss. The APS deplores harassment in all its forms and remains committed to ensuring a respectful and safe environment at its meetings."

Krauss declined comment in an email on Tuesday to The Arizona Republic.

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