Born in Neston during World War 2, Tim Hunt was the son of Richard Hunt, a lecturer at Liverpool University. In 1945, Richard became Keeper of the Western Manuscripts at the Bodleian Library  and the family moved to Oxford. His mother was Kit Rowland, daughter of a timber merchant.

In 1961 Tim Hunt was accepted at Cambridge University to study Natural Sciences, where he obtained his B.A. and Ph.D. His field was biology and his research (mostly in USA) involved study of haemaglobin and later the proteins involved in cell division. In 1982, while studying the eggs of sea urchins, he discovered cyclin, which proved to be a critical protein in the cell-division of vertebates and indeed all living organisms (including tumors).

From 1990 he worked at the Cancer Research UK London Institute and now sits on numerous councils and advisory committees.

In his cell reproduction research he worked with Sir Paul Nurse and in 2001 they were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine.