The origins of the Foundation, along with much of Terran history, have come down to us through the records found on a basic computer found in the ruins of an ancient city on the planet's western continent. The Foundation was set up shortly after the invention of the viable inter-planetary transport ship, as a reaction to the grim state of Terran society in those times.
The two centuries 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 plebian 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 societal 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 is also considered to be 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 named 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 history for the better. The Foundation was founded on principles of freedom of information and the protection of a culture that valued it, and on those principles it proceeded for much of Terra's history.
However, the recent focuses the Foundation have been less noble. Sometime after first contact with the civilisation of [Yentic Seven]?, the Foundation came under the auspices of the lawyers of the East Rim. These lawyers had a plan for a kind of pre-determined society, based on a model that the Foundation was in an ideal position to experiment with; thus, covertly, the organisation became a precursor, almost a trial run, for the events that led to the Copyright Dispute, albeit 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 Silver 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 gaudy trinket, the Foundation was entrenched, and legislation for licencing and patenting was already being enacted by the [Terran High Senate]?.
Happily, however, unlike the Law Association of the East Rim the Foundation was happy to use its position to propagate development rather than suppress it. Despite the Foundation's heavy-handed approach to regulation, its prudent investment, adaptation and guidance of Terran research and development allowed the Terrans to become one of the greatest of the galactic powers - a not inconsiderable achievement, given that not so long ago the Terrans were destined for eventual self-extinction. Today the Foundation enjoys a position of considerable power and influence over Terran society, easily equal to that of the [Terran High Senate]?, and is almost unique in remaining largely undamaged in the recent conflicts.
NOTE: 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.