The First Foundation, often referred to simply as the Foundation, was established at the planet Terminus, outside the Imperial borders. The Foundation was set up with Imperial blessings as a "Encyclopedia Foundation", intending to preserve all of human knowledge during the predicted one thousand years of chaos. Seldon's true intention for the Foundation is to preserve the physical sciences and provide a political starting point for the Second Empire.
The nature of the Foundation changes through the five hundred years of history Asimov provides in the books. In the beginning, the "Foundation" refers to the Encyclopedia Foundation in Terminus City. Terminus City is run by a mayor, and in the beginning Terminus was quite weak and subject to the political whims of the Four Kingdoms surrounding it. The most notable of those kingdoms is Anacreon. As the scientific knowledge of the galaxy continues to wane, the preservation of atomic power in Terminus enables it to use that knowledge to its advantage.
Mayor Salvor Hardin realizes that the Encyclopedia Foundation was a farce: Terminus' true role was to serve as the foundation of a new political entity, one that will hopefully grow into the Second Empire. Because the scientific and technological abilities of the Foundation are so far above those of the Four Kingdoms, Hardin is able to create a religion around atomic power.
The Foundation's nature throughout the books is one that is continually shifting. From an academic foundation to a religious center, it turns at the end of Foundation into a trade hub. The Foundation will grow from Terminus to become a federation of planets under the direct control of Terminus or under its sphere of influence. The leader of the Foundation, and later the Foundation Federation, will retain the title of "Mayor" but some will grow to have almost dictatorial powers. The Foundation is briefly conquered by The Mule, since no one there can resist mentalics.
By Second Foundation (novel), those in the Foundation have become aware of the Second Foundation, and its leaders have surmised that its powers are mental, rather than physical. Both the Mule and the Foundation search for the Second Foundation in an effort to destroy it, but are unsuccessful. By Foundation's Edge, the Foundation Federation holds the overwhelming majority of the galaxy in its sphere of influence, aside from isolated worlds like the 50 Spacer Worlds and Gaia that are not on any maps.
List of Mayors and Heads of State of Terminus/First Foundation
The Board of Encyclopedists was the governing body of Terminus (an Imperial Protectorate then) until 50 FE, when the Mayor of Terminus City Salvor Hardin seized power with the help of Yohan Lee, in order to stop Anacreon from establishing military bases on Terminus. Here is a comprehensive list.
- Dr. Lewis Pirenne, a representative of the Galactic Emperor, ruled as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, of the Encyclopedia Foundation Number One. He was then superior to Hardin, and pressurised him concerning the Terminus City Journal. During his reign, the Royal Governor of the Prefect of Anacreon assumed right as King. Hardin and he escorted Anselm haut Rodric (Envoy Extraordinary of his Highness of Anacreon, Sub-prefect of Pluema, "plus a dozen other titles") in Terminus.
- Salvor Hardin was the first Mayor of Terminus City. He played an important role in the Foundation's history, by his political battle against Anacreon, and by establishing Scientism in order to pacify the neighbouring worlds. He tricked haut Rodric into revealing that Anacreon does not have nuclear power, by noticing that he did not correct Hardin when he stated that it is hard to obtain plutonium for nuclear power (plutonium is not utilised for the particular process). He seized power as head of state of Terminus with the help of Yohan Lee. He later defeated Wienis, Prince Regent of Anacreon, and his nephew King Leopold I of Anacreon, through Scientism and relegious propaganda. He was once a student of psychohistorian Bor Alurin.
- The Mayor of Terminus who appears in the trial of Hober Mallow rules in about 135 FE. Hober Malllow was charged of alegedly allowing an Anacreonese Scientism Missionary (Jord Parma) to be killed in Korell.
- Hober Mallow was the first Trader who became Mayor aided by politician Ankor Jael.
- The Mayor of Terminus City mentioned in The General, Part One of Foundation and Empire. He is reffered to be an "idiot" in a "soft" government, ruling during the reign of Cleon II, who launched attack on the Foundation.
- Indbur I, the first monarch of a Mayor. He is mentioned to be a brutal and capable Mayor.
- Indbur II, the son of Indbur I, succeeded the throne as a birthright. He was "merely brutal", therefore only "half of his father".
- Indbur III, the son of Indbur II, was "neither brutal, nor capable". He is the Mayor in The Mule, Part Two of Foundation and Empire. He is remembered to have been the last monarch of a Mayor, and having fallen to The Mule.
- The Mule ruled Terminus from Kalgan, as the First Citizen of the Union of Worlds. He was dethroned after a rebellion in Kalgan istigated by the Second Foundation in Search by the Mule, Part One of Second Foundation (novel).
- The Mayor of Terminus City during Search by the Foundation, Part Two of Second Foundation (novel). He fights Kalgan (under Lord Stettin), in a war instigated by the Second Foundation under Preem Palver.
- Harla Branno, the fifth female Mayor of Terminus ruled during Foundation's Edge. She exiles Golan Trevize accompanied by Janov Pelorat to Trantor, hoping to find the Second Foundation through them. She suspects Sayshell as a candidate to host the Second Foundation. Her faithfull subordinate was Liono Kodell. She plays a role in the Decision that potentially could kick-start Galaxia and did so.