Sir Karl Raimund Popper (1902–94) was an Austrian-born British philosopher. He contributed to the philosophy of science by rejecting inductive reasoning and asserting that it was impossible to prove indisputably that something was true; the best one could do was to try every method one could devise to prove that it is not true. His work has been a major stimulus to scientific research.
Born in Vienna, Popper studied philosophy at the University of Vienna. He taught secondary school for six years but fled the rise of Nazism by immigrating to New Zealand, where he lectured in philosophy at Canterbury University College. In 1946, he relocated to England, became professor at the London School of Economics, and transformed it into a leading academic center for the philosophy of science.
As a student at the University of Vienna, Popper attended a lecture by Albert Einstein. He philosophized about the way Einstein’s concepts worked, and recognized that what made them bona fide scientific theories was that they were concrete enough that it would have been possible to prove that they were false. In other words, scientific hypotheses can never be completely confirmed as true, but are verified by attempts to falsify them. He used this standpoint to argue that astrology, metaphysics, Marxist history, Freudian psychoanalysis and other theories were impossible to prove not true, because there is no way they could ever be falsified.
Popper made falsifiability the key to his philosophy of science and wrote The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1935.) Falsifiability developed into the most universally invoked “criterion of demarcation” of science from non-science.
Popper later applied his analysis of knowledge to theories of society and history. In The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945,) he criticized the historicist social theories of Plato, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Karl Marx as totalitarian models that are easily falsifiable.
The best thing that can happen to a human being is to find a problem, to fall in love with that problem, and to live trying to solve that problem, unless another problem even more lovable appears.