The University sprawled casually, unashamed of its disordered ranks, over a hundred thousand acres of grassy, rolling countryside. It was the year A.D. 3896, and the vast assemblage of schools and colleges and laboratories had been growing on this site for more than two thousand years.
It had survived political and industrial revolutions, local insurrections, global, inter-terrestrial and nuclear wars, and it had become the acknowledged center of learning for the entire known universe.
No subject was too small to escape attention at the University. None was too large to be attacked by the fearless, probing fingers of curiosity, or to in any way over-awe students and teachers in this great institution of learning.
No book was ever closed in the University and no clue, however tiny, was discarded as useless in the ceaseless search for knowledge which was the University's prime and overriding goal.
For no matter how fast and far the spaceships might fly, or what strange creatures might be brought back across the great curve of the universe or how deeply the past was resurrected or the future probed, of one thing only was the University quite sure—man did not know enough.
All manner of schools had come into being at the University, and often they functioned in pairs, one devoted to proving a proposition, and the other to disproving it. And among these pairs of schools two, in particular, seemed to exist on a most tenuous basis. Their avowed mission was to settle the age-old argument concerning the relative influences of heredity and environment.
One, headed by Professor Miltcheck von Possenfeller, worked tirelessly to prove that there was no such determining factor as heredity, and that environment alone was the governing influence in human behavior.
The other, under the direction of Dr. Arthur D. Smithlawn, was dedicated to the task of proving that environment meant nothing, and that only heredity was important.
Success, in short, could only come to those who were born with the genes of success in their bodies, and failure was as preordained for the rest as was ultimate death for all.
Over a period of more than two hundred years the School of Environment had been taking babies from among the thousands of homeless waifs gathered in throughout the universe, and raising them carefully in a closely supervised, cultural atmosphere.
The School of Heredity, on the other hand, was more select. Its pupils came only from families whose genealogy could be traced back for at least a thousand years. Freedom of choice and expression was the rule here, since the school was attempting to prove that a child's inherited tendencies will send it inevitably along a predetermined path, completely uninfluenced by outside help or hindrance.
In two centuries neither school had been able to develop an overpowering case in support of its own theory. Hence they both thrived, and cheerfully ignored the discrepancies which existed in the case records of individuals who had not turned out according to the book.
Although they were zealous professional rivals, Prof. von Possenfeller and Dr. Smithlawn were devoted personal friends. They called each other Possy and Smithy and got together once a week to play chess and exchange views on the universe in general. Only one subject was taboo between them—their experimental work....