1931: Publication of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, showing that essential aspects of Hilbert’s program could not be attained.
It showed how to construct, for any sufficiently powerful and consistent recursively axiomatizable system – such as necessary to axiomatize the elementary theory of arithmetic on the (infinite) set of natural numbers – a statement that formally expresses its own unprovability, which he then proved equivalent to the claim of consistency of the theory; so that (assuming the consistency as true), the system is not powerful enough for proving its own consistency, let alone that a simpler system could do the job.
It thus became clear that the notion of mathematical truth [cannot] be completely determined and reduced to a purely formal system as envisaged in Hilbert’s program. This dealt a final blow to the heart of Hilbert’s program, the hope that consistency could be established by finitistic means (it was never made clear exactly what axioms were the “finitistic” ones, but whatever axiomatic system was being referred to, it was a ‘weaker’ system than the system whose consistency it was supposed to prove).
— Wikipedia on Foundations of mathematics
2013.07.21 Sunday ACHK