Foundation (Asimov novel)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Dust-jacket of the first edition.
AuthorIsaac Asimov
Cover artistDavid Kyle
CountryUnited States
SeriesFoundation series
GenreScience fiction, political drama
PublisherGnome Press
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Followed byFoundation and Empire 

Foundation is a science fiction novel by American writer Isaac Asimov. It is the first published in his Foundation Trilogy (later expanded into the Foundation series). Foundation is a cycle of five interrelated short stories, first published as a single book by Gnome Press in 1951. Collectively they tell the early story of the Foundation, an institute founded by psychohistorian Hari Seldon to preserve the best of galactic civilization after the collapse of the Galactic Empire.


On August 1, 1941, Isaac Asimov proposed to John W. Campbell of Astounding Science Fiction that he write a short story set in a slowly declining Galactic Empire, based on the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Campbell liked the idea, and by the end of a two-hour meeting Asimov planned to write a series of stories depicting the fall of the first Galactic Empire and the rise of the second. Asimov submitted the first story "Foundation" (retitled as "The Encyclopedists" for the book edition) on September 8, Campbell purchased it on September 15, and Astounding published it in May 1942. Asimov wrote seven more stories for Campbells magazine over eight years, and they were collected into The Foundation Trilogy, together with a book-exclusive prologue, "The Psychohistorians". Published from 1951 to 1953, the three books became Asimov's most popular science fiction and won a Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series in 1966.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

"The Psychohistorians"[edit]

In 12,067 G.E. ("Galactic Era"), mathematician and psychologist Hari Seldon has developed psychohistory, a new field of science and psychology that allows for the probabilistic prediction of future events. By means of psychohistory, Seldon has discovered the decline and eventual fall of the Empire, angering its rulers, the Commission of Public Safety. Seldon defends his beliefs and the Commission, not wanting to make Seldon a martyr, offers him exile to a remote world, Terminus.

"The Encyclopedists"[edit]

In 50 F.E. ("Foundation Era"), there is one region on Terminus that is suitable for the development of a large city, named Terminus City. The affairs of Terminus City are handled by its first Mayor, Salvor Hardin. Hardin believes Terminus is in danger of political exploitation by the four neighboring prefectures of the Empire. When Hardin's efforts are resisted by the Board, Hardin and his chief advisor, Yohan Lee, plan an overthrow of ruling board. Because the board was made up of Encyclopedists whose training was authoritarian, they couldn't recognize the possibility of revolt. Salvor Hardin then visited the three kingdoms each weaker than Anacreon, and convinced them that they must resist nuclear power from falling into Anacreon alone. The three issued a joint ultimatum that all be allowed to receive nuclear technology from Terminus City, ensuring that the Encyclopedists were indispensable to all.

"The Mayors"[edit]

In the kingdom of Anacreon, Prince Regent Wienis and his teenaged nephew, King Lepold I, launch a direct military assault against Terminus, making use of an abandoned Imperial battlecruiser. Hardin secretly installs a kill switch into the cruiser, causing the crew to mutiny. The ship's commander, Admiral Prince Lefkin, Wienis's son, is captured and forced to broadcast a message to Anacreon. The message demands Wienis's arrest and trial before an ecclesiastical court. Wienis, maddened by his failure, orders Hardin's execution, but his royal guardsmen refuse to obey him. Attempting and failing, due to a protective energy field, to kill Hardin personally, Wienis dies by suicide.

"The Traders"[edit]

Master Trader Eskel Gorov, an agent of the Foundation government, travels to the world of Askone, hoping to trade atomics. Gorov, however, is met with resistance by Askone's governing Elders due to traditional taboos that effectively ban advanced technology. Gorov is imprisoned and sentenced to death.

Trader Limmar Ponyets is ordered by the Foundation to try to negotiate with the Elders. He meets with the Elders' Grand Master and deduces that he may be willing to exchange Gorov for a suitable bribe. Ponyets clumsily fashions a transmuter that will convert iron into gold. Councilor Pherl, the Grand Master's protégé, believes that a stable supply of gold will increase his power, and Ponyets sells him the transmuter.

Gorov is released quickly. According to a new agreement, he and Ponyets can take as much tin from Pherl's mines as they can carry.

"The Merchant Princes"[edit]

Three Foundation vessels have vanished near the Republic of Korell, which is suspected of either independent technological development or buying smuggled Foundation goods. Master Trader Hober Mallow is assigned to deal with Korell. He talks to Jaim Twer and offers him to come along. While the Master Trader and his crew are waiting in a spaceport hanger a man identifying himself as "Reverend Jord Parma" appears, saying he is a missionary. Korellian law forbids Foundation missionaries to be on the planet under penalty of death. Suspecting a set-up, Mallow decides to turn the missionary over to them.

Mallow's discoveries lead him to believe that the Empire has been providing weapons to client states. He journeys alone to the planet Siwenna, which he believes may be the capital of an Imperial province. He meets the impoverished patrician Onum Barr, who helps Mallow to understand the political situation.

A year after his return to Terminus, Mallow is tried for murder because he gave the Foundation missionary to the mob. He reveals his knowledge that Jaim Twer was working as an agent for Sutt, one of the men who send Mallow to Korell. Further, he produces a recording revealing that the "missionary" was in fact a Korellian secret policeman. Acquitted, Mallow is received with delight by the population of Terminus, which ensures him the Mayor's seat. Mallow has Sutt and Manlio arrested.

As Mayor, Mallow soon faces tension with Korell, which declares war on the Foundation. Mallow imposes an embargo on Korell. The Korellan economy collapses due to its dependency on Foundation technology, thus forcing its surrender.


"The Psychohistorians"[edit]

  • Hari Seldon, mathematician who develops psychohistory
  • Gaal Dornick, mathematician and Seldon's biographer
  • Jerril, an agent of the Commission of Public Safety who watches Gaal Dornick
  • Linge Chen, chief commissioner of public safety, and judge of Seldon's trial
  • Lors Avakim, the lawyer appointed to defend Gaal Dornick

"The Encyclopedists"[edit]

  • Salvor Hardin, First Mayor of Terminus
  • Anselm haut Rodric, soldier and Envoy from Anacreon to Terminus
  • Bor Alurin, Trantorian psychologist who trained Salvor Hardin
  • Jord Fara, Member of the Board of Trustees of the Encyclopedia Committee
  • Lewis Pirenne, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Encyclopedia Committee
  • Lundin Crast, Member of the Board of Trustees of the Encyclopedia Committee
  • Lord Dorwin, Chancellor of the Empire
  • Tomaz Sutt, Member of the Board of Trustees of the Encyclopedia Committee
  • Yate Fulham, Member of the Board of Trustees of the Encyclopedia Committee
  • Yohan Lee, one of Salvor Hardin's advisors and friends.

"The Mayors"[edit]

  • Dokor Walto, Foundation Action Party activist
  • Jaim Orsy, Foundation Action Party activist
  • King Lepold I, King of Anacreon.
  • Lem Tarki, Foundation Action Party activist.
  • Levi Norast, Foundation Action Party activist.
  • Lewis Bort, Foundation Action Party activist
  • Prince Lefkin, Wienis's eldest son.
  • Prince Regent Wienis, Prince Regent of Anacreon, uncle of King Lepold I.
  • Poly Verisof, Foundation ambassador and High Priest on Anacreon.
  • Salvor Hardin, First Mayor of Terminus.
  • Sef Sermak, Terminus City Councilor.
  • Theo Aporat, head priest on Anacreon's flagship Wienis.
  • Yohan Lee, organizer of Salvor Hardin's coup and close confidante of Hardin.

"The Traders"[edit]

  • Eskel Gorov, Master Trader and Foundation agent sentenced to death on Askone
  • Limmar Ponyets, Master Trader, liberates Gorov in exchange for a transmuter.
  • Les Gorm, Master Trader and knows Linmar Ponyets from trading.

"The Merchant Princes"[edit]


Reviewer Groff Conklin declared Foundation "a book of real intellectual entertainment and adventure."[2] Boucher and McComas, however, found it "competent enough writing and thinking, if on the dull side."[3] P. Schuyler Miller received the volume favorably, but noted that the "revision and inter-writing" of the component stories was "not quite so successful a job" as Asimov had managed with I, Robot.[4]

In 1966 the Foundation trilogy won the prestigious Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series.[5] In 2018 the chapter "The Encyclopedists" won a retrospective 1943 Hugo Award for the Best Novelette of the preceding year.[6]

In 2012, io9 included the book on its list of "10 Science Fiction Novels You Pretend to Have Read".[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Asimov, Isaac (1972). The early Asimov; or, Eleven years of trying. Garden City NY: Doubleday. pp. 383–387.
  2. ^ "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf," Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1952, p. 86.
  3. ^ "Recommended Reading," F&SF, April 1952, p. 95
  4. ^ "The Reference Library", Astounding Science Fiction, February 1952, p. 156
  5. ^ "1966 Hugo Awards". Hugo Award. 26 July 2007. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
  6. ^ 1943 Retro-Hugo winners at the official website
  7. ^ Anders, Charlie Jane (July 10, 2012). "10 Science Fiction Novels You Pretend to Have Read (And Why You Should Actually Read Them)". io9. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  • Chalker, Jack L.; Mark Owings (1998). The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Bibliographic History, 1923-1998. Westminster, MD and Baltimore: Mirage Press, Ltd. p. 300.

External links[edit]