Does anyone have any other information about Eddorian life spans and the number of Gharlane's ancestors in the last 2,000,000,000 years other than given in my question?

In E.E. Smith's Lensman series the Eddorians would reproduce by fission and each new body would have all the the memories of the "parent". This is some kind of hereditary ancestral memory, though I don't know any details of how it was supposed to work.

They were asexual: sexless to a degree unapproached by any form of Tellurian life higher than the yeasts. They were not merely hermaphroditic, nor androgynous, nor parthenogenetic. They were completely without sex. They were also, to all intents and purposes and except for death by violence, immortal. For each Eddorian, as its mind approached the stagnation of saturation after a lifetime of millions of years, simply divided into two new-old beings. New in capacity and in zest; old in ability and in power, since each of the two "children" possessed in toto the knowledges and the memories of their one "parent."


For much of the Lensman the second highest Eddorian is Gharlane.

Gharlane is killed in the era of Kimball Kinnison. He searched his ancestral memories for an suppressed memory during the era of Triplanetary, hundreds or thousands of years earlier. The era of Triplanetary is when Earth has recovered from a devastating atomic war hundreds of years before.

in First Lensman Gharlane is said to have activated human forms of flesh to make trouble and hold back Earth's development. They include the Tyrant of Asia (perhaps responsible for World War III), Hitler (1889-1945), Mussolini (1883-1945), Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941), Genghis Khan (c.1162-1127), Attila (c. 406-453), Menocoptes of Egypt, Alcixerxes of Greece (Possibly Alcibiades c.450-404 BC), Sulla (138-78 BC), Marius (157-86 BC), Mithridates of Pontus (135-63 BC), and Hannibal of Carthage (247-183/181 BC).

So Gharlane's activities seem to be spread out over at least 2,000 or 3,000 years.

In fact Gharlane's first assignment to mess up Earth's development is in the era of Atlantis thousands of years earlier than the Roman Republic!

Chapter 2 "The Fall of Atlantis"

So that makes Gharlane's span of activity on Earth closer to 10,000 years and possibly much more.

And why is Gharlane's span of adult life as the second highest of Eddore important?

I believe that in the revised version of Triplanetary first published in 1948, Gharlane realizes that his memories of first meeting the Arisians have been suppressed. He seeks to find and uncover the suppressed memories of the encounter, going back life after life after life of his ancestors, going back through the memories of many ancestors to two billion (2,000,000,000) years ago when the planets in Earth's solar system were forming.

My memory is reading that Gharlane searched the memories of millions of his ancestors.

If there were at least two million ancestors in 2,000,000,000 years the average Eddorian life span would be less than 1,000 years which is not consistent with the long lifespans of attributed to Eddorians. If there were at lest two million lifespans in the 4,500,000,000 years since the currently accepted date for the formation of the Earth, the average lifespan in Gharlane's ancestry would be less than 2,250 years.

I suspect that E.E. Smith momentarily forgot that Eddorians have one parent each, not two. So a human has 1,024 ancestors in the tenth generation and 1,048,576 ancestors in the twentieth generation. 21 generations or more would give a gendered being at least 2,097,152 ancestors in the 21st generation. So searching memories millions of ancestors back, covering all members of 21 or more generations, would make an average of less than 95,238,095 years per generation. That could certainly make the average Eddorian lifespan long enough.

But since Eddorians only have a single parent each, at least two million (2,000,000) ancestors in two billion (2,000,000,000) years gives an average generation of under 1,000 years.

Maybe by a billion E.E. Smith meant a billion on the long scale, 10 to the 12th power or 1,000,000,000,000 - what is usually called a trillion - instead of a billion in the short scale, 10 to the 9th power, or 1,000,000,000. That would make the average Eddorian lifespan one million (1,000,000) years or less, plenty long enough.

Or if we change Smith's two billion (2,000,000,000) years to about four and a half billion (4,500,000,000) years, the correct age of our solar system, that makes the average Eddorian lifespan 2,250 years or less, which comes closer to being adequate.

Or perhaps Gharlane didn't know when the suppressed event happened and searched the memories of all his ancestors back as far as he could. Perhaps the average Eddorian lifespan is 10,000 years and Gharlane searched for over 2,000,000 generations back for over 20,000,000,0000 years before finding the suppressed memory only 2,000,000,000 years earlier. Or maybe the average Eddorian generation is 100,000 years and Gharlane searched his ancestral memories back for over 2,000,000 generations and over 200,000,000,000 years before finding the suppressed memory only 2,000,000,000 years earlier.

Today (26 March 20017) I searched the Project Gutenberg E Book of Triplanetary and found in Chapter 17 "Roger Carries On" the description of Gharlane searching his ancestral memories.

Back and back went Gharlane's mind. Centuries ... millenia ... cycles ... eons. The trace grew dim, almost imperceptible, deeply buried beneath layer upon layer of accretions of knowledge, experience, and sensation which no one of many hundreds of his ancestors had even so much as disturbed. But every iota of knowledge that any of his progenitors had ever had was still his. However dim, however deeply buried, however suppressed and camouflaged by inimical force, he could now find it.


So that indicates that Gharlane was only "many hundreds" of generations after his ancestor 2,000,000,000 years ago. If we assume that "many hundreds" are between five hundred and two thousand generations, the average length of an Eddorian generation should be about 1,000,000 to 4,000,000 years. If the time interval was the 4,500,000,000 years that is believed to be the actual age of the solar system instead of 2,000,000,000 years, the average length of an Eddorian life span would be 2,250,000 to 9,000,000 years.

So if all versions of that scene in all editions of Triplanetary say "many hundreds" of ancestors instead of millions the Eddorian life span can be long enough for Gharlane's activities over at least ten thousand years to be a short phase of his life. And Gharlane's ancestor's average life spans can agree with the unspecified millions of years of life mentioned in chapter one.

So has anyone read a different edition of Triplanetary that gives different information? Is there any information in other books about the length of the average Eddorian lifespan and/or the number of ancestors whose memories Gharlane searched? Or anything else that throws light on the subject?

The quotations in this post indicate there is no conflict about the average length of Eddorian lifespans. So why do I seem to remember a contradiction? Is this just a false memory?

  • And as for why so many generations of ancestors didn't result in enough Eddorians to literally fill the universe, it must be remembered that while in their original universe the Eddorians were killing each other left, right, and center in a constant struggle for supremacy; it was only once they had moved their planet into our universe (and discovered lots of other species to dominate) that they put aside their fratricidal warring. For the most part.
    – EvilSnack
    Sep 12, 2023 at 0:07

2 Answers 2


The Kindle version of Triplanetary has the 'many hundreds of his ancestors' version, and this is the book version (not 1934 magazine version without the 'prequel' chapters). So it seems very unlikely that the 1948 version had anything different than the Gutenberg and Kindle versions.

So I don't think there is any contradiction.


By the time Eddorian planet arrived in our space, they were effectively immortal. I don't have to book to hand, but the whole reason they left their home region was because they'd pretty much killed everyone/everything they could, easily, and the survivors needed something to do other than wipe each other out. Two galaxies birthing uncounted planets with life to subjugate was a huge draw for them.

But, individually they didn't die; they could be killed by the application of sufficient mental force. My recollection is that they didn't split often, possible rivals and all.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.