The Foundation was set up shortly after the invention of the viable inter-planetary transport ship. The two centruies immediately preceeding the genesis of Darrow's Foundation are remembered only for their persistent irrelevance; despite the earlier promise the Terrans had shown, these years are remarkable for the marked and systematic trend of intellectual degredation exhibited by both plbian and intellectual aristoracy alike. The Nobel Prize, for so long a benchmark of social, scientific and humane achievement, was fundementally devalued, when, at some point in what has become known as the Age of Vacuity, they could find no worthier recipient than a popular musician.
The subsequent collapse of the old Nobel Foundation had left an void in the Terran intellectual elite, but the social will did not exist to remedy this state of affairs. Humanity seemed destined to accept the slow corruption of the promise it once showed, gradually sapping its own desire to reform with war after trivial war and unremittingly witless and petty entertainment.
This decline lasted for nearly two hundred Cycles. It took Neil Darrow and a handful of his compatriots to unearth the remains of the scientific legacies of Einstein and Hawking. With a small but elite group of friends, Darrow succeeded in creating an element that was both the catalyst and the by-product of its own explosive reaction with nitrogen, a discovery which lead to the Velocity Drive and thus to all interstellar travel today. Neil Darrow was himself the first to test the Drive; a pod was built with just enough space for one person, and Darrow became the first human to escape Earth's gravitational pull in over 170 Terran Cycles.
He also became the first human ever to break the gravitaional influence of Sol, although whether he was still alive by that time is questionable. The designers, either through oversight or jealousy, had omitted to build steering controls into the pod, and Darrow was never heard from again. The Foundation was names in his honour and he became the first to receive the Midas Owl, an award given only to those who have radically altered the course of Terran histroy for the better.
The recent history of the Foundation is far less glorious. Sometime after first contact with the civilisation of [Yentic Seven]?, the Foundation came under the auspices of the lawyers of the East Rim. Covertly, the organisation became a precursor, almost a trial run, for the events that led to the Copyright Dispute, although with far less damaging concequences. The Foundation hastily proclaimed itself to be the academic benchmark for all Terran advances in any of the psycho-socio-scientific fields; the artistic and intellectual communities - being such as they are, were, and most likely always will be - leapt upon this display of largese with jovial abandon, proudly wearing the hastily-implimented Golden Owl as a fashion accessory with as little thought for the concequences as would be expected from a child. By the time fashion had shifted to the next think, the Foundation was entrenched, and legislation for licencing and patenting was already being enacted by the [Terran High Senate]?.
Unlike the Law Association of the East Rim, however, the Foundation was happy to use its position to propigate development rather than suppress it. The prudent invenstment, adaptation and guidance of the Foundation allowed the Terrans to become one of the greatest of the galactic powers - a not incosiderable achievement, given that not so long ago the Terrans were destined for eventual self-extinction.
The Foundation has three levels of honour. The Silver Owl is the basic patent, given to all inventions that are ratified as safe and legal for Terran use. The Golden Owl is for special achievements worthy of special attention, or great works of theory that can be built on for further advancements. Finally, the Midas Owl, as already discussed, is for revolutionary leaps of genius that advance the Terran cause to heights hitherto unobtained and unobtainable. The Midas Owl has only been awarded three times in history; the first time was a Physics award to Neil Darrow, the second, a Peace award, to the [Terran High Senate]? after its initial negotiations with [Yentic Seven]?, and the third, for Chemistry, was controversially awarded three cycles before the production of this tome to [Xerxes Smith]?, for the his involvement in the reconstruction of Earth and lifetime achievements.