The first book in the Lensman series by E. E. Smith, Ph.D.
Published: 1937-1938 (serial), 1950 (book).

Genre: Space Opera(0)


Young Kimball Kinnison graduates from Tellus’s(1) academy, receives his Lens, and is commissioned an officer in the Galactic Patrol. Shortly after, he is given his first command: The battleship Britannia, an experimental vessel designed for one purpose—-to fight the evil Boskone(2) pirates. They manage to defeat a single pirate ship, gain the secret of its power source (an advanced zero-point energy engine), and escape, many kiloparsecs from base and with the pirate fleet on their tail.

Kinnison gives the order to abandon ship, to increase the chance that a single crew member can get home. After some adventures on the planets Velantia and Trenco, Kinnison returns to the Patrol's Prime Base on Tellus.

Armed with new knowledge about a) the Boskone cosmic energy accumulators b) new Velantian beam technology, and c) Velantain thought-wave screens, the Galactic Patrol decides to rebuild their fleet so that they can effectivly fight the Boskonian ships and bases.

Aside: This is one of the clichés of space opera. Our adventurer discovers a new planet. He lands and meets the natives, who are being horribly oppressed by their evil next-door neighbors. Our Hero and his band of sidekicks liberate them and they exchange technology. Then the good guys rebuild their starfleet from scratch, in a matter of months, so that they can fight the bad guys. The bad guys (or sometimes a new group of bad guys comes along) develop new and better death rays, and the cycle repeats. Spaceships become bigger and bigger, and weapons become stronger and stronger.

The Patrol wipes out some of the Boskonian bases and ships, but Boskone gets new technology and the old stalemate eventually returns. Kinnison is promoted to the rank of Unattached Lensman (called Gray Lensman due to the color of their drab uniforms).

Thinking himself invulnerable, Kim goes to the planet Aldebaran I and sneaks into a Boskone military base. He gets his ass whooped.

After getting out of the patrol hospital, he tried to enter another Boskone base, this time on the planet Boyssia. In true space opera style, he is given the opportunity to rescue his love interest-—the nurse from the Galactic Patrol hospital.

Aside: It would seem that in the future, women still seem more likely to be nurses than physicians. I bet Dr. Smith though that he was being progressive, with the female lead being a professional, and not a housewife.

Kim, now knowing the location of the pirates main base, rallies the patrol and invades. He has to personally fight and kill the chief baddie, Helmuth.


Politics and History

The Galactic Patrol is the chief military force of galactic civilization. The government of galaxy is called the Galactic Council. The real power behind the Galactic Council and the Galactic Patrol are the mysterious race known as Arisians. It was they who give out the Lenses. The almost universally respect that Lensmen enjoy allow then to peacefully govern planets, acting as judges, police, and leaders in galactic society.

The Galactic Patrol’s greatest strength is its lack of corruption. If a Lensman uses his lens to speak to you using telepathy, he can not lie. And a Lensman can often pry into person’s mind to tell if he is telling the truth. Such evidence is admissible in court.

The Galactic Patrol emerged soon after the Tellurians first traveled to other star systems. It was originally based on the Triplanetary Patrol, which policed the Solar System before interstellar travel.

Science and Technology:

In the Lensman universe, special relativity does not hold. There is a fixed reference frame that coincides with a substance called ether, through which light moves. There is also more structure to space-time than just the ether. These are collectively known as the sub-ether. Vibrations in the sub-ether can travel at speeds orders of magnitude faster than light. One of the greatest bits of technology is a field that suppresses the Higgs interaction, rendering all matter inertialess. (See Peter Higgs and the Higgs Particle. Note that I'm restating Dr. Smith's story in terms of the Standard Model--he didn't use the terms Higgs field or Higgs Boson.) (Old spacemen refer to the two states as inert (Higgs on) and free (Higgs off).) By turning on a field (with a device called a Bergholm), the equation

Σ F = ma

reduces to(3)

Σ F = 0

So, in the relativity-less universe, the only thing keeping you from traveling at an infinite velocity while free is friction. Since the friction of space is very small, you can go very fast. Do the math: let FR be the force of your rocket engine. Let A be the cross-sectional area of your space ship. Let m be the mass of your average interstellar dust particle. Let v be the resultant velocity of your space ship. And let N be the number density of interstellar dust particles (units of 1/m3). Assume dust sticks to the hull of the ship (totally inelastic collision). Force = dp/dt. In a unit of time dt, the ship intersects a volume of space equal to A×v×dt. The number of particles it hits is NAvdt. The total mass of those particles is mNAvdt. The change in momentum (dp) of those particles is ΔV × M = vmNAvdt = v2mNAdt. Thus:

FR = dp/dt = (v2mNAdt)/dt = v2mNA


v = (F/(mNA))1/2

Which is REALLY FAST!!!!

Weapons: The Galactic Patrol uses a vast array of weaponry. They like to use pick axes for melee combat (great for puncturing armored pressure suits). They also use guns, missiles, fusion and fission weaponry. And they know about nuclear reactions that we don’t. But their main weapon is the sub-ethereal beam. Just like a laser beam is a coherent vibration of the ether, the sub-ethereal beam moves through the sub-ether. But access to the sub-ether gives more than just offensive capabilities: one can also produce defensive force-fields, tractor beams, and repulsor beams, as well as faster-than-light communications. The Lens itself can be thought of as a weapon that allows psychological/psychic combat (especially when wielded by Second Stage Lensmen).

Organization: The Galactic Patrol is headquartered at Prime Base on Tellus. There are also Sector Bases on many of planets where the Galactic Patrol operates. The regional fleets are usually made up of locals, and this makes every planet feel like it’s an important part of the Patrol.


(0) Note the similarity between the Lensmen and the Jedi Order from the Star Wars Universe. Both have supernatural powers. Both have very high moral standards. And there are many similarities between the evil Eddorians and the Sith.

(1) In the Lensman universe, Tellus is the name of the planet Earth. Humans from Earth are called Tellurians. Sometimes, that term is also used for inhabitants of planets colonized from earth. The term Solarian is used to describe anyone who lives in the Solar System. There are humans in the galaxy (species homo sapiens) whose ancestors did not come from earth. There are also species that look very similar humanity, but are not the same. And, of course there are also species that look like dragons, or amoebas, or pure energy, or whatnot.

(2)At this point in the story, no one really knows who is behind the piracy. The pirates seem to be acting in an organized manner, and their organization is called Boskone. At the same time, galactic civilization is dealing with an epidemic of drug abuse. It would seem that there is another criminal organization behind the drugs (especially the drug thionite). Dealers are called Zwilniks.

Aside: In 1981, Midway released a spaceship-themed video game called "Bosconian". This is possibly a reference to the Lensmen books.

(3)This only works in a universe without special relativity. Under normal circumstances the correct math is:

E2 = p2c2 + m2c4      (*)

Where p = momentum. When you turn off the higgs interaction, you get:

E2 = p2c2
E = |p|c

Another interesting result of no relativity is that while quantum mechanics still governs microscopic forces, it no longer generalized into QED (quantum electrodynamics) the same way you are used to. Recall that Dirac postulated antimater from negative energy solutions to equation (*). Of course, equation (*) does not hold, so in this universe, antimatter corresponds to negative-mass solutions to Newton's Second Law (F=ma)! So, for this negative matter, a push is a pull, and a pull is a push. Got it? Remember, this ain't true in our universe. As a licensed volunteer physics tutor, I hate to confuse anybody.

Galactic Patrol E2 Writeup, Copyright 2002 Frank Grimes.

This writeup is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License v2.5. (For details, see ) Alternatively, permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2. (For details, see

--Frank Grimes, 2007

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