A olivaw

John Carson as Olivaw in the 1964 Story Parade episode "The Caves of Steel"

DEMERZEL, ETO — ...While there is no question that Eto Demerzel was the real power in the government during much of the reign of Emperor Cleon I, historians are divided as to the nature of his rule. The classic interpretation is that he was another in the long line of strong and ruthless oppressors in the last century of the undivided Galactic Empire, but there are revisionist views that have surfaced that insist his was, if a despotism, a benevolent one. Much is made, in this view, of his relationship with Hari Seldon, though that remains forever uncertain, particularity during the unusual episode of Laskin Joranum, whose meteoric rise... (Forward the Foundation)...

-Encyclopedia Galactica

R. Daneel Olivaw, also using aliases Eto Demerzel or Chetter Hummin, called Da-Nee in ancient legends, or named The-Man-Who-Is-Not and Daneel-Of-Old by the Memes, is a fictional robot character created by Isaac Asimov. The "R" initial in his name stands for "robot," a naming convention in Asimov's future society. Olivaw appears in Asimov's Robot and Foundation Series. Daneel is an extremely important character, being responsible for the creation of the Galactic Empire, Gaia, psychohistory, and the two Foundations, and the only humaniform robot after the murder of R. Jander Panell.



Olivaw was a positronic robot built by Roj Nemennuh Sarton and Han Fastolfe, Spacer roboticists from the planet Aurora, in the year 4720 AD. Unlike many robots of the period, Olivaw was constructed to be virtually indistinguishable from a human being (an android) and was the first of the humaniform robots. This "undercover" attribute enabled him to help plainclothes policeman Elijah Baley solve crimes.

Working with Baley[]

First case[]

Cover art of The Caves of Steel, acrylic by Michael Whelan

Baley and Daneel in a metal cave

Olivaw first worked with Baley in 4721, on the case of the murder of his co-creator, Dr. Sarton, in Spacetown on Earth, in which Baley got to know Daneel and think of him as more of a human than a robot. Baley tried to hide the fact that Olivaw was a robot but his wife Jessie Baley and son Bentley Baley found out from the small group of conspirators Jessie was part of. Daneel helped Baley with the case and eventually to realize that Baley's boss, Commissioner Julius Enderby, was responsible, by making Baley think. During this first case, Olivaw was accused twice by Baley, once of murdering Sarton and once of being him.

Second and third cases[]

Baley was once again partnered with Daneel the next year by the Dr Fastolfe and the Solarian government during the murder case of Rikaine Delmarre. While in a car on Aurora, and throughout the case, Daneel tried to prevent Baley from going into the open air, but Baley tricked him numerous times. At one point in the case, Baley tricked Daneel into revealing his robotic nature to the robot servants of Solaria and kept him imprisoned in his house while he investigates face-to-face with the Aurorans. An error in Baley's wording allows Daneel to communicate with Rikane's wife Gladia and for Daneel to follow him to the farm that Delmarre worked in and then to Gladia's house. Convinced of Gladia's guilt, Daneel saved Baley from drowning before putting Gladia under house arrest. After Baley's reveal of roboticist Dr. Leebig's guilt, Daneel arrived to interrogate Leebig, only for him to slit his own throat, not knowing of Daneel being a robot and hating human contact. Next, in 4723, Daneel called on Baley in a small matter of two mathematicians claiming the other had stolen their work, and Baley helped solve the case.

Fourth case[]

Next, in 4724, they worked on the case of the "roboticide" of Olivaw's robotic "brother", R. Jander Panell, on Aurora. By this time, Baley considered Daneel a close friend and explicitly regarded him as human. Also on Aurora during the case, Daneel first met R. Giskard Reventlov, a robot who turned out to have unique telepathic and mind-control powers, and helped Baley privately identify him as the killer. This was his last known case with Baley before the detective's death, during which Baley planted the seeds of the future Zeroth Law in his mind by talking of the "tapestry of humanity".

Zeroth Law of Robotics[]

Cover art of Robots and Empire, acrylic by Michael Whelan

Giskard shakes hands with Daneel

In an interesting evolution of robotic sociology two centuries later, Olivaw came to see the need for a new law to be added to the ancient "Three Laws of Robotics": the "Zeroth Law of Robotics" ("A robot may not injure humanity, or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm"). This came about after both Daneel and Giskard, who had by this time revealed to Olivaw his powers, came to see the incompleteness of the existing Laws. The Zeroth Law proved destructive to Reventlov's positronic brain when he attempted to act upon it, as he could not tell whether his actions would save humanity or destroy it, resulting in a life-threatening "moral" conflict. Reventlov bestowed his abilities to Olivaw, who, over the course of 20,000 years, adapted himself to be able to fully obey the Zeroth Law without the risk of shutdown. Together Olivaw and Reventlov continued to develop the science of "psychohistory" or Laws of Humanics originally created by Dr Fastolfe, that would enable them to execute the "Zeroth Law" in a quantitative sense. For thousands of years it remained a vague set of axioms, but years later would be fully developed into practical application by Hari Seldon.

Guiding humanity[]

From this period onward, Olivaw manipulated the galaxy with the help of his many robot allies, who followed his Zeroth Law and became known as "Giskardians". Various different sects of robots, on the other hand, denied it, remaining true to the original three and becoming known as "Calvinians" after the great Susan Calvin. The heretical Calvinian groups began the early Robotic Civil Wars with the Giskardians who followed Daneel, but Olivaw managed to achieve victory in these first wars to focus on guiding humanity. He set up both the First Galactic Empire and the Gaia evermind in approximately the year 11,586 AD in order to create a society that did not need robots. Under the guise of Eto Demerzel, he becomes the First Minister to Galactic Emperors Cleon I and Stanel VI.

During the last days of the Empire[]

When Hari Seldon first came to Trantor in 12,020 GE, Olivaw, under the guise of reporter Chetter Hummin (a phonetic pronunciation of the words "cheater" and "human"), convinced Hari that the Galactic Empire was dying and that psychohistory must be developed into a practical science in order to save it. As Hummin, he convinced Seldon that Cleon's First Minister Eto Demerzel was pursuing him and that it was imperative for Hari to escape and to try making psychohistory practical. He introduced Hari to R. Dors Venabili, who became Hari's friend, protector and future wife. At the end of Seldon's "Flight" it was revealed that Hummin and Demerzel were actually the same person, and were both false identities of Olivaw.

Eight years after the Flight, Daneel was nearly exposed during the rise of Laskin "Jo-Jo" Joranum. Hari and Dors solved this by getting "Demerzel" to laugh at a question of whether or not he was a robot, shifting public opinion against Joranum. Daneel secretly remained on Trantor, fighting the Calvinian sects in a new wave of civil wars, until forty years later, when he was one of the many in attendance at Hari's funeral in the year 1 FE. Attempts by the Commission of Public Safety to locate him in the days following the funeral were unsuccessful, but his attendance was later recorded in the Encyclopedia Galactica.

On Luna[]

After leaving Trantor for the last time, Daneel went to Luna, the single moon of Earth, and set up a small colony of Giskardian robots there. Five hundred years into this colony's existence, the robots' final task was to erase all records of Earth from the Galactic Library on Trantor, causing Golan Trevize, Janov Pelorat, Bliss and Fallom to search for Earth and eventually find him, learning about his paternalistic manipulations, including the settlement of Alpha Centauri, the creation of Gaia, and psychohistory, eventually leading to the creation of the Seldon Project and the establishment of the Foundations. Olivaw's purpose, he revealed, was to merge with Fallom to live long enough to establish the galactic superorganism, Galaxia. While he was theoretically immortal, due to the fact that he was a robot, his parts constantly needed replacing, including his brain, and he had now reached the point at 19,443 years old where he had to use a biological body.

Film and Television[]

Daneel appeared in the 1964 Story Parade episode "The Caves of Steel". He was played by John Carson.

Brent Barrett played Daneel in the 1988 interactive movie Robots.

In the Apple TV+ adaptation of the Foundation series, Daneel appears as Eto Demerzel. In the series, Demerzel is female and played by Laura Birn.


Olivaw is the most commonly appearing Asimov character. It is because readers and publishers begged it of the author.