The Prime Directive was first referenced in the 1967 episode Return of the Archons of TOS. It was then defined in the episode Bread and Circuses as follows:

No identification of self or mission. No interference with the social development of said planet. No references to space or the fact that there are other worlds or civilizations.

Most attribute the creation of the ST Prime Directive to Gene Coon (Some credit Theodore Sturgeon). However, what I'd like to know is what was the first science fiction writer to come up with the concept of non-interference in a developing culture?

Note: This is not a duplicate of this question, as that is asking about the creation of the in universe prime directive.


TV Tropes dates it back as least as early as Olaf Stapledon's novel Star Maker in 1937.

Star Maker, a 1937 novel by Olaf Stapledon (who inspired many of the "golden age" sci-fi writers) has the Symbiont race, Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who keep their existence hidden from "pre-utopian", pre-spacefaring races, revealing themselves only after a race achieves both of those so the fledgling races don't lose their "independence of mind" (pretty similar to the Vulcans that came after.

  • Quite. My first encounter with something very like the Prime Directive came around 1965 and was written earlier - after Stapledon but clearly before Star Trek. I remember neither author nor title, not anything else about the story except that possibly it included the Hegemony of Malice. Still, the main point was that with the best will in the galaxy, the friendly aliens refused to save humanity simply by handing over technology the poor, benighted Earthlings could not have developed for themselves Jun 17 '20 at 0:16

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