Things I remember:

  • The planet was chosen for colonization, but the boy remembered seeing in archives history of previous colony that died due to (what was thought as) some disease.
  • Scientists got too specialized and knew a lot about their field, but not a lot about others, that's why a project was started to raise (create?) these children that were connecting facts
  • I think in the beginning of the story, before they landed, the boy was invited to the captain and, while waiting for something, he was counting stars through the window. Captain didn't believe that because there were too many stars to track (in his opinion?). They were in star cluster or middle of the galaxy or smth, where a lot of stars are
  • On the planet the boy was asking around scientists, including geologist (atmosphere guy?) that used his instrument to see composition of rock/atmosphere
  • The boy caused rapid evacuation from the planet, many scientists were angry at him for causing false alarm and having them leave their instruments
  • Boy explains that he saw that composition and after a while remembered a book he read that one of elements from that composition (lithium? beryllium?) is toxic and causes lung (?) damage or smth and was afraid that everyone who landed got it and gonna die. And that explained what caused previous colony to die.
  • It ends with someone explaining that possibly the medics has already found way to treat that disease since the times of that failed colony and that maybe scientists' exposure wasn't long enough to be lethal.

2 Answers 2


This sounds a lot like Sucker Bait, a short story by Isaac Asimov. It deals with a scientific expedition to colonize a world called "Junior" - a previous attempt to colonize the planet had mysteriously failed. As you remember, the scientists were tightly specialized and did not share their findings. One member of the crew was not a scientist, but instead compulsively memorized information (a member of the "Mnemonic Service"), and had a rather unfortunate personal manner. He was the person who realized that the colony had been killed off because of a high concentration of beryllium. It had been so long since beryllium had been used that he was the only person who knew about its toxic properties from his reading of historical material.


Sucker Bait by Isaac Asimov.

I read it the anthology The Martian Way and other stories, but it has been widely collected.

As you say a team are exploring a planet that seems too perfect to be true. The boy, Mark Annuncio, discovers that it is contaminated with beryllium dust and this destroys human lungs dooming the explorers.

The penultimate chapter ends on a positive note:

Novee said, "Medical science has advanced since the days of books printed on paper. Besides, we may not have received the toxic dose. The first settlers survived for over a year of continuous exposure. We've had only a month, thanks to Mark Annuncio's quick and drastic action."

But the final paragraph is rather bleaker:

Mark did not respond to that idealism. The trial was over; the excitement was gone. There were tears in his eyes. He could only think that he might die; and that if he did, there were so many things, so many, many things in the Universe that he would never learn.

  • 1
    just beat me to it @JohnRennie ;) Commented May 12, 2020 at 19:16
  • 6
    @ClaraDiazSanchez with Asimov stories so many people know them that it's just a matter of who sees the question first. All of us old time SF fans grew up reading Asimov anthologies :-) Commented May 12, 2020 at 19:17

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