David Harding
David Harding founder of Winton Capital ManagementWikimedia Commons/Winton Capital Management

Calling someone a geek or nerd is as insulting as calling someone a n*****, said David Harding, the founder of one of Britain's most successful hedge funds.

Harding, who built Winton Capital's £25bn (£40bn)fund by analysing finnacial markets using complex statistical models, dismissed the idea that scientists had made the term "geek" chic or hipster but that it had negative rather than positive connotations.

Speaking to The Times, before announcing his £5m ($7.5m) donation to create a new maths gallery at the Science Museum in London, he said: "I feel these words [geek and nerd] are as insulting as n*****.
I find it insulting."

"Are these words really used affectionately by society? It doesn't feel like that. I thing they're used with a slight fear and a slight putting something down so you don't have to be respectful of it."

Harding, who has a personal fortune of about £900m ($1.5bn) and came 131st on this year's Sunday Times Rich List, also said "some people would say wop for an Italian or y** is affectionate".

"I'm not sure that y** is less insulting. One is a Jewish person and one is a person who is very good at maths," he said.

Physicist Jim Al-Khalili, however, said the "rise of geekdom is a celebration of those that are interested in science".

"People are not just putting up with being called geeks, they're actively embracing it," he said.

Mark Henderson, author of The Geek Manifesto, agreed. "They're badges of honour that people use about themselves to show off that they're curious about the world and have a deep abiding interest in something – often science and maths," he said.