Emeritus Professor of Philosophy of Science, Department of Philosophy, Logic, and Scientific Method, London School of Economics

John Worrall joined LSE as an undergraduate in 1965, initially intending to study Statistics and then become an Actuary. Unfortunately from the point of view of his future financial status, he sat in on Karl Popper’s lectures, and was riveted. He switched to the Philosophy Department and ended up studying a course that was part mathematics and statistics and part logic and philosophy. He came under the influence of Imre Lakatos – a force of nature and a real 24 hour-a-day intellectual. He studied for a PhD under Lakatos – developing the latter’s methodology of scientific research programmes and testing it against a detailed case-history from 19th century physics.  (He tells the full story of how he got into Philosophy of Science here.)

Worrall was appointed to a Lectureship at LSE in 1971, becoming Professor in the 1990s. Having for many years played the Cricket of Pure Reason for the LSE Staff Cricket XI (and, rather more seriously, for Highgate CC), his chief Departmental role became that of leader of its rock n roll band The Critique of Pure Rhythm. (And Convenor/Head of Department from 1996 to 1999.)

Worrall’s main intellectual interests are in theory-change in science – and its impact on the twin theses of scientific rationality and scientific realism.  (You can watch a TEDx talk outlining the core issues here.) More recently, his research has mostly focused on methodological and evidential issues in medicine particularly those concerned with clinical trials and “Evidence-Based Medicine”.

He was for 10 years the Editor of The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, has held Visiting Fellowships/Professorships at the Universities of Pittsburgh and Otago; and has given invited lectures around the world – in the USA and Canada, China, South America, Australia and New Zealand as well as Eastern and Western Europe. He was the founding Director of the LSE Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science and is a former President of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science. He was made a Patron of Humanists UK in 2018. In 2019 he retired from LSE, becoming Emeritus Professor. (You can hear his farewell “exaugural” lecture here.) In 2020 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate for his ‘major contributions to the Philosophy of Science’ by the University of A Coruña Spain.