In Foundation, Gaal Dornick arrives on Trantor, the roofed-over planet that is the center of government for a Galactic Empire of 25 million planets, to work with Hari Seldon, the inventor of a predictive science called psychohistory. Psychohistory is able to predict far future events on an extremely large scale, but not to predict more localized events. Almost immediately, Seldon goes on trial for treason, because his calculations predict the fall of the Empire. Seldon escapes punishment by persuading the judges that everyone will benefit if he is allowed to set up the Foundation on the planet Terminus, on the edge of the galaxy, to compile a massive encyclopedia, the Encyclopedia Galactica, that will preserve all of human knowledge. Seldon then tells Dornick that the entire crisis has been manufactured so that 100,000 encyclopedists and their families will agree to leave Trantor for Terminus.
Fifty years later, Terminus is facing a crisis: It is under threat from ambitious rulers of nearby planets, one of whom, the ruler of Anacreon, wants to annex Terminus. Anacreon has a rival, the planet Smyrno. Terminus has few mineral resources but much technology because of the high proportion of scientists that live there. No psychologists live on Terminus, because Seldon included none when he brought the encyclopedists there. During the crisis, Seldon appears in a “time vault” with prepared comments about a predicted crisis (later called a “Seldon crisis”); he announces that the encyclopedia project was a ruse concocted to influence history without any encyclopedist’s knowledge—a necessary element of effective psychohistory. The lack of freedom of action is an essential part of a Seldon Crisis. Terminus, Seldon says, is an island of atomic power in an ocean of more primitive energy resources; the solution to their problem is obvious, but it is obvious only to Mayor Salvor Hardin, who has assumed control of Terminus.
Thirty years later, Hardin has solved the crisis by playing one barbarian planet against another, stoking each one’s fears of the other gaining atomic control. He sells devices to everyone but reserves the science to a newly created religious order. When Anacreon attacks Terminus, the priests rebel. Seldon appears again and warns that regionalism is stronger than religion.
Fifty years later, religious science has allowed the Foundation to take over its barbarian neighbors. Some planets view technology as sacrilegious. One of them, Askone, has imprisoned a trader for meddling in local politics. Another trader, Limmar Ponyets, tricks the ruler into accepting a transmutation machine for turning base metals into gold and then blackmails him into allowing the import of Foundation machines.
About twenty-five years after this, religion in the Foun dation has rigidified to the point that is has itself become a problem. To get rid of a rival, Jorane Sutt, the power behind the ruling mayor, sends a trader named Hober Mallow to investigate the disappearance of Foundation ships near the planet Korell. Mallow persuades the Korellian ruler to import Foundation atomic devices. Mallow traces the source of Korellian atomic handguns to...
(The entire section is 1305 words.)