Foundation (by Isaac Asimov) was published in 1951, and primarily dealt with psychohistory, a branch of mathematics that laid down all the probable paths splitting off from a point and the percentage chance of each path actually occuring.

Dune (by Frank Herbert) was published in 1965, and involved the hero being able to see all possible paths splitting off from the current point in time, and what paths would become reality if certain actions were taken.

The foresight from spice in Dune sounds very similar to intuitive applied psychohistory, and the publication dates are such that it is likely that Frank Herbert read Foundation.

Did Frank Herbert ever acknowledge any inspiration from Foundation?

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    Note: The main content of Foundation (including psychohistory mention) has been published in 1940s (in Astounding Magazine).
    – hindmost
    Nov 1, 2015 at 17:07
  • The original psychohistorians used pure mathematics. It amuses me how Asimov himself seemed to evolve their psycho-historians into psychic-historians, so my feeling is that the influence was the other way around...
    – rodrigo
    Nov 1, 2015 at 18:24
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    Spice allowed very specific individual actions to be seen; blind Paul was able to navigate as if he could see. Psychohistory began as statistical modeling of large-group behavior to predict future trends. They weren't very similar.
    – chepner
    Nov 1, 2015 at 18:25

1 Answer 1


I wasn't able to find any statement by Herbert about any inspiration he might have received from the Foundation trilogy. However, in his book Frank Herbert (1981) Timothy O'Reilly states that (chapter 5):

Dune is clearly a commentary on the Foundation trilogy. Herbert has taken a look at the same imaginative situation that provoked Asimov's classic--the decay of a galactic empire--and restated it in a way that draws on different assumptions and suggests radically different conclusions.

And after that he writes:

The Bene Gesserit are clearly parallel to the "scientist-shamans" of the Foundation. Their science of prediction and control is biological rather than statistical, but their intentions are similar to those of Asimov's psychohistorians.

So, considering that Paul is the son of Lady Jessica, a Bene Gesserit, and receives a Bene Gesserit training, it seems likely that Herbert was inspired by Foundation.

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    Interestingly, over use of 'clearly' is common when someone is trying to make a point, and not have it questioned, often due to the fact that they really can't defend it. I must say that I suspect that's what O'Reilly is guilty of, as he seems to be falling into the fallacy of concluding that similar elements imply derivation. (That said, I'm able to say this via hindsight; when O'Reilly wrote his book the later Foundation stories hadn't been published; the Mule background was not as simple as O'Reilly thought.) I think he's dead wrong, but that's irrelevant -- it's good research, so +1.
    – K-H-W
    Nov 1, 2015 at 22:05
  • @K-H-W Well in math proofs 'clearly' is sometimes used a lot, especially in Proof by intimidation! However I agree entirely with your assessment of the O'Reilly assertion, it's total BS. Nov 27, 2015 at 15:49

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