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Foundation summary

Isaac Asimov

Dive into a Future Galactic Empire in This Science-Fiction Classic

4.5 (71 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

Foundation is a science fiction book by Isaac Asimov. It tells the story of a mathematician who predicts the fall of a galactic empire and sets up a foundation to prevent a dark age.

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    ​​The Psychohistorians

    Gaal Dornick is a young scholar from the distant world of Synnax who arrives on the sprawling, awe-inspiring planet of Trantor, the heart of the Galactic Empire, where he's been invited by the renowned mathematician Hari Seldon to join the mysterious Seldon Project.

    Trantor, a city-planet, boasts a population of over 40 billion, dedicated primarily to the Empire's administration. As Gaal finds his way around the mind-boggling city, he eventually encounters the enigmatic Hari Seldon, a psychohistorian who has made startling predictions about the impending fall of the Galactic Empire.

    Essentially, Seldon has found a way to combine history, sociology, psychology, and statistics to peer into the future. Most alarming is that Seldon’s data is pointing, with a 92.5 percent certainty, to the total destruction of the Empire within five centuries. At this point, the Empire has been thriving for over 12,000 years.

    News of Seldon’s prediction has leaked to the Emperor and, naturally, he’s unhappy. Given that the Seldon Project has grown to include the families of 20,000 followers, Seldon is seen as a considerable threat and charged with treason. So, immediately after meeting Professor Seldon, Gaal becomes embroiled in a contentious legal trial.

    During the trial, Seldon admits that there’s nothing anyone can do to stop the fall of Trantor. He explains that steps could be taken to mitigate the long-term damage caused by the collapse. Normally, after such a collapse, much of society’s knowledge is lost and a dark age follows. But if a galactic encyclopedia is created and preserved, the length of that dark age could be greatly reduced.

    Despite his skepticism, the Emperor agrees to let him create the encyclopedia. But he banishes Seldon and the families of those who work for him, to the distant planet of Terminus. What Gaal soon learns is that Seldon had, of course, predicted his own exile and even surmised that Terminus would be their destination. To further his cause, he also explains that a second scientific refuge will be established on the opposite edge of the galaxy on a planet known as Star’s End. Indeed, preparations have already been underway for the start of new colonies on these planets. But Gaal also learns that Seldon has a fatal illness and won’t live long enough to see his plans to fruition.


    If there’s one character whose presence is felt throughout the entire story, it’s Hari Seldon. He’s the founder of the scientific refuge that will become known as the Foundation and the full extent of his work with psychohistory will only become known gradually, with each new conflict that arises.

    This section is primarily about setting up the concept of psychohistory and getting the reader to wonder about its possibilities. If you had enough data about past human events and enough data about current psychological and sociological conditions, could you predict future events? Certainly, there’s some truth to the idea that history repeats itself, and Asimov is basically taking that idea to its logical extreme.

    It should also be noted that he’s using the fall of the Roman Empire as the primary inspiration for the Galactic Empire. In this way, he’s showing us how the potential and limitations of human nature will forever be the same, no matter if it’s one planet or a galaxy full of planets.

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    What is Foundation about?

    Foundation (1951) looks at the crumbling of a galactic empire from the perspective of the planet Terminus, located on the Empire’s outer edge. Terminus is home to the Foundation, a community formed by a mathematician who could predict the future and the Empire’s inevitable demise. As the Empire crumbles, the Foundation gains increasing influence through a mixture of atomic power, religion, and economic savvy.

    Foundation Review

    Foundation (1951) by Isaac Asimov is a classic science fiction novel that explores the collapse and rebirth of a galactic empire. Here are three reasons why this book is worth reading:

    • With its futuristic setting and grand scope, it presents a captivating vision of the future that will keep you hooked from start to finish.
    • The intricate political intrigue and complex characters add depth and realism to the story, making it a thought-provoking and engaging read.
    • Asimov's vivid and imaginative storytelling brings the world of Foundation to life, creating an immersive reading experience that is definitely not boring.

    Who should read Foundation?

    • Sci-fi fans
    • Those who’ve watched the new Foundation television series and are curious about the books
    • Anyone who likes a good space opera

    About the Author

    Isaac Asimov was a prolific science fiction writer and a professor of biochemistry. His imaginative tales of futuristic worlds and groundbreaking scientific concepts made him an enduring and popular author. Over his long career, he won many awards and wrote hundreds of short stories as well as 40 novels including The Gods Themselves, Nemesis, and I, Robot. Foundation is the first book in Isaac Asimov's seven-part Foundation Series.

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    Foundation FAQs 

    What is the main message of Foundation?

    The main message of Foundation is the inevitable decline and fall of civilizations and the efforts to rebuild and preserve knowledge.

    How long does it take to read Foundation?

    The reading time for Foundation varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Foundation a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Foundation is a must-read for science fiction fans. It offers an intriguing exploration of future civilizations and the power of mathematics and psychology.

    Who is the author of Foundation?

    The author of Foundation is Isaac Asimov.

    What to read after Foundation?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Foundation, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Gravity by Nicholas Mee
    • The Poetry and Music of Science by Tom McLeish
    • Ulysses by James Joyce
    • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
    • Beowulf by Unknown
    • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson