Hari Seldon

HARI SELDON — Born in the 11,988th year of the Galatica Era: died 12069. The dates are more commonly given in terms of the current Foundation Era as -79 FE to the year 1 F.E. Born to middle-class parents on Helicon, Arcturus sector (where his father, in a legend of doubtful authenticity, was a tobacco grower in the hydroponic plants of the planet), he early showed amazing ability in mathematics. Anecdotes concerning his ability are innumerable, and some are contradictory. At the age of two, he is said to have ... Undoubtedly his greatest contributions were in the field of psycohistory. Seldon found the field little more than a set of vague axioms; he left it a profound statistical science...The best existing authority we have for the details of his life is the biography written by Gaal Dormick who, as a young man, met Seldon two years before the great mathematician's death. The story of the meeting...It is customary to think of Hari Seldon only in connection with psychohistory, to see him only as mathematics and social change personified. There is no doubt that he himself encouraged this for at no time, in his formal writings, did he give any hint as to how he came to solve the various problems of pyschohistory. His leaps of thought might have all been plucked from air for all he tells us. Nor does he tell us of the blind alleys into which he crept, or the wrong turnings he may have made. - As for his private life, it is a blank. Concerning his parents and sibling, we know a handful of facts, no more. His only son, Raych Seldon, is known to have been adopted, but how that came about is not known. Concerning his wife, we know only that she existed. Clearly, Seldon wanted to be a cipher except where psychohistory was concerned. It is as though he felt, or wanted it to be felt, that he did not live, he merely psychohistorified....though it is the best existing authority on the details of Seldon's life, the biograpy by Gaal Dornick cannot be trusted regarding the early rise to power. As a young man, Dornick met Seldon only two years before the great mathist's death. By then, rumor and even legend had already begun to grow about Seldon, particularly regarding his shadowy period of large-scale authority within the fading Imperium. How Seldon became the only mathist in all of Galactic history to ascend to political power remains one of the most intractable puzzles for Seldon scholars. He gave no sign of ambitions beyond the building of a science of "history"-all the while envisioning not the mere fathoming of teh past, but in fact the prediction of the future. (As Seldon himself remarked to Dornick, he early on desired "the prevention of certain kinds of futures.") Certainly the mysertious exit of Eto Demerzel as First Minister was the opening act of a play of large proportions. That Cleon I immediately turned to Seldon suggests that Demerzel hand-picked his successor. Yet why go to Seldon? Historians are divided about the motivations of the central players in this crucial moment. The Empire had entered a period of challenge and disruption, coming especially from what Seldon termed the "chaos worlds." How Seldon adroitly maneuvered aginst powerful opponenets, despite no recorded experience in the political arena, remains an active but vexing area of research…Little is known about the final days of Hari Seldon, though many romanticized accounts exist, some of them purportedly by his own hand. None has any proved validity. What appears evident, however, is that Seldon spent his last months uneventfully, no doubt enjoying satisfaction in his life’s work. For with his gift of mathematical insight, and the powers or psychohistory at his command, he must surely have seen the panorama of history stretching before him, confirming the great path of destiny that he had already mapped out. Although death would soon claim him, no other mortal ever knew with such confidence and certainty the bright promise that the future would hold in store… found dead, slumped over his desk in his office at Streeling University in 12,069 G.E. (1 F.E.). Apparently Seldon had been working up to his last moments on psychohistorical equations; his activated Prime Radiant was discovered clutched in his hand...According to Seldon's instructions, the instrument was shipped to his colleague Gaal Dornick who had recently emigrated to Terminus...Seldon's body was jettisoned into space, also in accordance with instructions he'd left. The official memorial service on Trantor was simple, though well attended. It is worth noting that Seldon's old friend former First Minister Eto Demerzel attended the event. Demerxel had not been seen since his mysterious disappearance immediately following the Joranumite Conspiracy during the reign of Emperor Cleon I. Attempts by the Commission of Public Safety to locate Demerzel in the days of following the memorial proved to be unsuccessful...Wanda Seldon, Hari Seldon's grandaughter, did not attend the ceremony. It was rumored that she was grief-stricken and had refused all public appearances. To this day, her whereabouts from then on remain unknown...It has been said that Hari Seldon left this life as he lived it, for he died with the future he created unfolding all around him...The centuries recede, and the legend of Hari Seldon grows: The brillaint man, wise man, sad man who charted the course of the human future in the old Empire. But revisionist views prosper, and cannot always be easily dismissed. To understand Seldon, we are sometimes tempted to refer to apocrypha, myths, even fairy tales from those distant times. We are frustrated by the contradictions of incomplete documents and what amount to hagiographies. This we know without reference to the revionist: that Seldon was brilliant, Seldon was key. But Seldon was neither saint nor divinely inspired prophet, and of course, he did not act alone. The most pervasive myths involve... (Foundation, Prelude to Foundation, Foundation's Fear, Foundation's Triumph, Forward the Foundation, Foundation and Chaos)...

-Encyclopedia Galactica

Hari Seldon, also called Raven Seldon or the Raven by his enemies, specifically the late Galactic Empire, is the intellectual hero of Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. In his capacity as mathematics professor at Streeling University on Trantor, he developed psychohistory, allowing him to predict the future in probabilistic terms. His ability to predict disasters is the reason behind his nickname "Raven" Seldon.

In the first five books of the Foundation series, Hari Seldon made only one in-the-flesh appearance, in the first chapter of the first book (Foundation), although he did appear other times in pre-recorded messages in order to reveal a Seldon Crisis. After writing five books in chronological order, Asimov went back with two books to better describe the initial process. The two prequels—Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation— describe his life in considerable detail. He is also the central character of the Second Foundation Trilogy written after Asimov's death (Foundation's Fear by Gregory Benford, Foundation and Chaos by Greg Bear, and Foundation's Triumph by David Brin). This makes him the second-most commonly appearing Asimov character overall.


Early Life on Helicon[]

Hari Seldon (11,988-12,069 GE) was born to a family in poverty on the planet Helicon in the Arcturus sector. His father was a tobacco grower in a hydroponics plant. He showed precocious mathematical abilities at a very early age,[1] as a result of secret genetic experiments by R. Daneel Olivaw.[2]At the same time, he learned martial arts that later helped him on Trantor, the principal art being Heliconan Twisting (a form seemingly equal parts Jiu Jitsu and Krav Maga).[3] As a boy, his grandmother insisted on buying him a raincoat several sizes too large, "to get more use out of it." His mother did not like him playing kickball because he wore out his shoes too quickly.[4] R. Dors Venabili posed during his youth as an elderly schoolteacher at his boarding school, and then as an older classmate at his university.[2] Eventually, his father was run over by a steel ground-punder. After his father's death, Hari knew what he had to do. He would defeat uncertainty itself, find order in seeming discord - he began the development of psychohistory, a science to theoretically predict the Galactic Empire's future.[4] At first, Seldon had no idea how this could be done in practice, and he was fairly confident that no one could actually fulfill the possibility.[3]

The Flight[]

In 12,020, as a thirty-two-year-old assistant professor of mathematics at Helicon University, Seldon visited Trantor from his native Helicon to attend the Decennial Mathematics Convention at the invitation of the emperor. He presented a paper on psychohistory, thinking it was just a starting theoretical and unpractical science. R. Daneel Olivaw, under the two guises of First Minister Eto Demerzel and reporter Chetter Hummin, persuaded him to develop a practical science to help save the Empire after making him run across Trantor as Hummin from his alter ego Demerzel; this was known as the Flight, and during it he visited Streeling University, Mycogen, Dahl and Wye. In Wye, Mannix IV's Imperial coup nearly succeeded but Daneel intervened as Demerzel and rescued Hari, ending the Flight. Seldon deduced he was a robot. Dors Venabili became Seldon's wife. They adopted a boy named Raych they had found in Billibotton, Dahl. Seldon and Yugo Amaryl, a heatsinker also from Billibotton, began to flesh out psychohistory.[3]

First Joranumite Conspiracy[]

When Laskin "Jo-Jo" Joranum campaigned against Demerzel, Seldon tried to stop him. He used Raych as a spy, to pretend to be on Jo-Jo's side and reveal that Demerzel was a robot. They then got Daneel to address the people of Trantor, but ignore the robot issue. When he was asked whether he was a robot, he "laughed", and the message ended. After a few days people realized how ridiculous Joranum's claims were, and the Joranumites lost power. Daneel resigned from his post as First Minister, leaving Trantor and then the Galactic Empire to the Moon of Earth, where he set up a small settlement of robots, before returning to Trantor.[5]

Fighting Lamurk[]

Powerful Trantor High Council member Betan Lamurk opposed the independent Seldon's appointment. Seldon himself was reluctant to accept the position because of its time constraints pulling him away from the psychohistory project. Seldon needed to carry favor with the emperor, however, and advised Cleon I informally. For example, Seldon suggested a decree that erases terrorists' names from records, denying them immortality, discouraging chaotic actions. Meanwhile, sentient simulations (sims) of Joan of Arc and Voltaire were recreated by Artifice Associates, a research company located in Trantor’s Dahl Sector. Artifice Associates programmers Marq and Sybil planned to use the Joan/Voltaire sims for two money-making projects. First, Seldon’s psychohistory project. Second, Trantor’s Junin-Sector “Preservers vs Skeptics Society” debate whether mechanical beings endowed with artificial intelligence should be built. And if so, whether they should receive full citizenship. The Preservers’ champion would be Joan, the Skeptics’ champion Voltaire. Hari and Dors fled Trantor, escaping Betan Lamurk's forces. During their galactic odyssey, Hari and Dors experienced virtual reality as chimpanzees on planet Panucopia. They also visited helter-skelter New Renaissance world Sark. Meanwhile, back on Trantor, Joan and Voltaire escaped into Trantor's Mesh (Internet). Joan and Voltaire interacted with ancient aliens on the Mesh. These aliens fled Trantor's physical space when terraforming robots arrived on Trantor more than 20,000 years ago. Via Joan and Voltaire, Hari allied with the mesh aliens. The aliens aided Seldon's return to Trantor, and his defeat of Lamurk through tik-toks. Seldon then accepted his role as First Minister.[4]

As First Minister[]

Asssassination Attempt[]

After becoming First Minister, Hari was nearly assassinated, most likely by agents of the Joranumites. Dors saved him and gardener Mandell Gruber bravely attempted to. As a result, two Ministers, five officials of lower ranks, and four soldiers (including the Sergeant who tried to kill Seldon) were executed, and every guardsman who could not withstand the most rigorous investigation was relieved of duty and exiled to the remote Outer Worlds. Dors gained the nickname “The Tiger Woman” after this.[5]

Final Joranumite Conspiracy[]

In 12,038, the remaining Joranumites exploited Trantor's faults in an attempted coup. Raych, shaving his mustache, joined them as a spy, but they secretly recognized him. Their current leader, Gambol Deen Namarti, wanted to kill First Minister Seldon, both in revenge for the events of a decade previously and to replace him in the palace. His second-in-command, Gleb Andorin, wanted Galactic Emperor Cleon I assassinated so that he could replace Cleon on the throne. They agreed to starting with Seldon, and they would drug Raych Seldon, so that he could carry out the assassination. Their plot was foiled by security officer Manella, who followed them undercover. However, recently-promoted Chief Gardener Gruber took one of the blasters and assassinated the Emperor with it because he did not want the job. The palace was quickly thrown into chaos with the successful assasination, and a military junta took power. Seldon stepped down from his government position and resumed leadership of the psychohistory project.[5]

Death of Dors Venabili[]

Seldon's grandaughter, of Manella and Raych, was named Wanda. When she was eight, Dors thought she dreamt or overheard someone talking about 'lemonade death'. Dors tried to investigate the possibility that people might have been planning a third attempt to assassinate Seldon. She was wrong; they were targeting her, because she was such an effective bodyguard that for any assassination to work, you would have to eliminate her first. Their plan succeeded. Seldon found out she was a robot as she was deactivated by use of the Electro-Clarifier. After this, the junta fell.[5]

The Foundations[]

Cover art of Foundation, acrylic by Michael Whelan

Hari Seldon on Trantor

In 12,052, Manella and Raych had another daughter, Bellis. Hari Seldon discovered Wanda's mental abilities when she said a section of the Prime Radiant, Yugo's device for displaying psychohistorical equations, was "wrong". He tried to find others, to set up a Second Foundation, to overlook the First he planned to establish, without success. Psychohistorical equations predicted the unavoidable collapse of the Empire. Seldon and Laz Zenow worked out a plan to save human knowledge using his two Foundations, one on Terminus, a distant planet Zenow found, and one on Trantor, and create a Second Empire via the Foundation. Yugo Amaryl worked himself to death in 12,054, and Seldon told him the plan on his deathbed. In 12,058, Raych, Manella, and Bellis moved to Santanni, where chaos broke out. Raych died, and his family was lost in space.

Stettin Palver, another mentalic, joined the Seldon Project. When Hari realized he was a Mentalic, he got him and Wanda to persuade people to get him money for the collapsing Seldon Project, and then to leave and establish the Second Foundation, with a Prime Radiant. He also met Bor Arulin, who would intergrate as a mole with the First Foundationers. He then began recruiting further members for the Project, in preparation for the First Foundation.[5] The Project began preparing to leave for Terminus in 12,065.[1]

The Trial Period[]

In 12,067, Gaal Dormick visited Trantor to join the Seldon Project, and Hari visited him to prompt the Commission of Public Safety to take action. Indeed, him and Gaal were put on trial. During the trial, Seldon defended his beliefs, explaining his theories and predictions, including his belief that the Empire would collapse within 500 years and enter a 30,000-year dark age. He informed the Committee that an alternative to this future was attainable, and explains to them that creating a compendium of all human knowledge, the Encyclopedia Galactica, would not avert the inevitable fall of the Empire but would reduce the dark age to one millennium. The skeptical Committee, not wanting to make Seldon a martyr, offered the Project exile to Terminus, as planned, although he was forced to stay on Trantor by Chen. He accepted their offer, prepared for the departure of the "Encyclopedists", receiving an imperial decree officially acknowledging his actions. Seldon then revealed to Gaal that he was dying, and implored Dornick to become a leader in the new Foundation.[6]

During this same period, many things had been happening which became relevant to Seldon's life: Klia Asgar, a Dahlite mentalic, had joined the plotting Calvinian robots, along with R. Lodovik Trema (who had his Four Laws removed) and her lover Brann. Meanwhile Farad Sinter had found the Commission of General Security and worked with Emperor Klayus against Linge Chen for the new Commission to be the one involved in the trial. He had also been searching for Mentalics with a very strong one, Vara Liso. Klia, Lodovik and Brann were sent to Seldon by the Calvinians to stop him from developing psychohistory further. A confrontation occured, involving Hari along with Brann, Klia, Lodovik, Dors, Vara and Daneel at the Hall of Dispensation. Lodovik killed Vara Liso when she attempted to kill Klia. Linge Chen rounded up the Calvinians and the Mentalics working for them and put them in prison, as well as Mors Planch in the Rikerian. Daneel released them, and got Lodovik to rejoin the Giskardians, declaring him truly human. After witnessing the power of Vara Liso, Hari thought his Plan was doomed, but Daneel, Dors, Wanda, Stettin and Klia convinced him otherwise and that they could prepare for a strong Mentalic mutant in the future - although Daneel eventually would reveal to Hari that the Second Galactic Empire of the Foundations was not his true plan for humanity anyway. Mors Planch took Lodovik to Eos and pretended to take Klia, Brann, Wanda and Stettin to Kalgan, deceiving Daneel. In reality, they stayed on Trantor and established Seldon's Second Foundation there. Hari also began recording the holograms for the "Seldon Crises", that the Foundation would be faced with.[7]


In 12,069, Seldon finished the recordings. Gaal Dornick, who had become his assistant, took them to Terminus to oversee their intallation in the Time Vault, or the Seldon Vault, making sure it was sealed and that the proper instructions were left for the eventual openings of the Vault. A month after finishing the holograms, Seldon performed some last psychohistorical equations at his office in Streeling University using the Prime Radiant. Knowing he was dying, he wondered about whether he neglected Yugo and Raych, and if he could have done anything to save Dors. He wondered what the future Foundationers would think of him. He regretted not being able to save Agis, and wondered what the Comission had done with him. He thought of what he would do now with Gaal gone. He noted that it was the Star's End contingent who pushed Linge Chen to "exile" him. He missed Wanda, and wished he could show the Prime Radiant to the long-gone Daneel. His last thought was of Dors.

The next morning, he was found dead, slumped over his desk, with the Radiant activated. It was shipped to Gaal Dornick, per Seldon's instructions. Seldon's body was jettisoned into space, also in accordance with instructions he had left. The official memorial service on Trantor was "simple, though well attended". Daneel returned to Trantor to attend the funeral before finally leaving for the Moon. The Commission failed to find him. Wanda, however, did not attend the ceremony, and it was rumored that she was grief-stricken and had refused all public appearances. It was said that Seldon "left this live as he lived it", for he died "with the future he created unfolding all around him".[5]



  1. 1.0 1.1 Foundation
  2. 2.0 2.1 Foundation's Triumph
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Prelude to Foundation
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Foundation's Fear
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Forward the Foundation
  6. Foundation, Foundation and Chaos
  7. Foundation and Chaos