Karl Popper, also known as Sir Karl Raimund Popper, was an Austrian-born British Philosopher and a professor at the London School of Economics. He is considered as one of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century. He wrote extensively on social and political philosophy. His principle contribution to philosophy is his rejection to inductive method in the empirical sciences. Popper won many awards and honors in his field, the long list includes the Lippincott Award of the American Political Science Association, the Sonning Prize, and fellowships in the Royal Society, British Academy, London School of Economics, King's College London, Darwin College Cambridge, and Charles University, Prague. Popper was the president of the Aristotelian Society from 1958 to 1959. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1965. His important works include “The Logic of Scientific Discovery”, “The Poverty of Historicism” and “The Open Society and Its Enemies”.
Karl Popper Childhood & Life
Karl Popper was born on 28th July 1902 in Vienna. His grandparents were Jewish, but their family converted into Lutheranism before he was born. His father Simon Siegmund Carl Popper was a lawyer by profession, who also had a great interest in classics and philosophy. His father was responsible for developing his interest in social and political issues. His mother, Jenny Schiff was of Silesian and Hungarian descent. Popper’s family made a rapid social climb in the Viennese Society and in just few years of their establishment in Vienna, his father became a legal partner of Vienna's liberal mayor Raimond Grübl. When the mayor died in 1898, his father took over the firm. His father being a doctor of law at the Vienna University influenced Karl Popper to attend the University of Vienna. His father also had a huge personal library of 12,000-14,000 books which Popper inherited from his father. In the year 1919, he was attracted by Marxism and subsequently joined the Association of Socialist School Students. He also became the member of the Social Democratic Workers' Party of Austria which was based on the Marxist ideology. But very soon he became disillusioned with the doctrinaire character of the Marxist ideology. He abandoned the ideology and remained a supporter of social liberalism throughout his life. During this time period, Popper discovered the psychoanalytic theories of Freud and Adler and attended a lecture which Einstein gave in Vienna on relativity theory. He received a primary school teaching diploma in 1925 and earned his Ph.D. in philosophy in 1928 under the supervision of Karl Buhler. His thesis was titled "Die Methodenfrage der Denkpsychologie".
By 1929, Popper was qualified to teach mathematics and physics in secondary school. From 1930 to 1936, he taught in secondary school. Meanwhile, in 1934, Popper published his first book, “Logik der Forschung” (The Logic of Scientific Discovery), wherein he criticized psychologism, naturalism, inductionism, and logical positivism and proposed his theory of potential falsifiability as the criterion demarcating science from non-science. Following the rise of Nazism and the threat of the Anschluss in 1937, Popper immigrated to New Zealand. In New Zealand, he became a lecturer in philosophy at Canterbury University College. At the university, he wrote his significant work "The Open Society and its Enemies". Popper moved to England in 1946 to become reader in logic and scientific method at the London School of Economics. In 1949, he was appointed as professor of logic and scientific method at the University of London. From 1958 to 1959, Popper served as the president of the Aristotelian Society. In the year 1965, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. Four years later, in 1969 he took retirement from academic life but remained intellectually active throughout his life. Popper was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1976. In 1982, he was invested with the Insignia of a Companion of Honor. He was also a member of the Academy of Humanism. He declared himself an agnostic who showed respect for the moral teachings of Judaism and Christianity. He was also awarded with the Grand Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria in Gold by the Austrian Government.
Popper married Josefine Anna Henninger in 1930. She died in 1985.
Karl Popper died in Croydon, UK at the age of 92 on 17 September 1994. After the cremation ceremony, his ashes were taken to Vienna. He was buried at Lainzer cemetery adjacent to the ORF Centre, where his wife Josefine Anna Henninger was already buried.
Karl Popper played an important role in setting the philosophy of science as a vigorous, autonomous discipline within analytic philosophy. This included his own prolific and significant works along with his influence on his own contemporaries and students. In 1946, he founded the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method at the London School of Economics. Popper’s lectures at the department influenced Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend, who later became two of the foremost philosophers of science in the next generation of philosophy of science. Despite some issues regarding the matter of influence, Popper shared a long-standing and close friendship with economist Friedrich Hayek, who was also from Vienna. They both supported each other and shared similarities in their works. Popper even believed to have said that he learnt more from Hayek than any other thinker, except Alfred Tarski. When Popper wrote, “Conjectures and Refutations” he dedicated it to Hayek. In return, Hayek dedicated a collection of papers, “Studies in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics”, to Popper. Popper also shared long and influential friendships with art historian Ernst Gombrich, biologist Peter Medawar, and neuro-scientist John Carew Eccles. One of his students at the London School of Economics, the billionaire investor George Soros, credits Popper for his investment strategies. Soros says that his strategies are based on Popper’s understanding of the advancement of knowledge through the distinctly Hegelian idea of falsification. In the honor of Popper, Soros founded a philanthropic foundation named as the Open Society Institute. The objective of the foundation is to advance the Popperian defense of the open society against authoritarianism and totalitarianism. His philosophy also helped in the creation of a libertarian movement, Taking Children Seriously.