R. Daneel Olivaw is a fictional robot character created by Isaac Asimov. The "R" initial in his name stands for "robot," a naming convention in Asimov's future society. Olivaw appears in Asimov's Robot/Foundation Series, most notably in the novels The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, The Robots of Dawn, Robots and Empire, Prelude to Foundation, Forward the Foundation, Foundation and Earth. Since he also appears in all of the books of the Second foundation trilogy, Daneel is the most commonly appearing Asimov character.
Olivaw is a Robot built by Roj Nemennuh Sarton and Han Fastolfe, who are Spacer roboticists from the planet Aurora, in the year 4920 AD. Unlike many robots of the period, Olivaw is constructed to be virtually indistinguishable from a human being (an android) and was the first of the humanoid robots. This "undercover" attribute enables him to help earth-policeman Elijah Baley solve crimes. Olivaw and Baley first meet while Baley is investigating the murder of his co-creator Sarton in Spacetown.
Olivaw has a broad, high-cheekboned face and short bronze hair lying flatly backward and without a part. He wore clothes and, in The Caves of Steel, cannot be told apart from a human unless he is seen in a situation where he refuses to violate the Three Laws of Robotics, and even in this case is indistinguishable from a particularly altruistic person. In this novel, Daneel was also capable of conducting cerebroanalysis on humans as he met them. Cerebroanalysis is the fictional interpretation of the electromagnetic fields of the living brain cells.
Olivaw and Baley work together on a murder case on Spacer planet Solaria, as well as on the case of the "roboticide" of Olivaw's "brother", Jander Panell on Aurora. Also on Aurora, he first meets R. Giskard Reventlov, a robot with unique telepathic and mind-control powers. In an interesting evolution of robotic sociology, Olivaw comes to see the need for a new law to be added to Asimov's now familiar "Three Laws of Robotics": the "Zeroth Law of Robotics" ("A robot may not injure humanity, or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm") after both robots come to see the incompleteness of the existing Laws. The Zeroth Law proves destructive to Reventlov's positronic brain when he attempts to act upon it, as he could not tell whether his actions would save humanity or destroy it, resulting in a life-threatening "moral" conflict. Reventlov bestows his abilities to Olivaw, who over the course of 20,000 years adapts himself to be able to fully obey the Zeroth Law without the risk of shutdown. Together Olivaw and Reventlov imagine the science of "psychohistory" or Laws of Humanics, that would enable them to execute the "Zeroth Law" in a quantitative sense. Years later this would be developed into practical application by Hari Seldon.
From that time onward, Olivaw manipulates the galaxy with the help of his many robot allies. He sets up both the Galactic Empire and Gaia in order to create a society that does not need robots. Under the guise of Eto Demerzel, he becomes the First Minister to Galactic Emperors Cleon I and Stanel VI.
When Hari Seldon first comes to Trantor, Olivaw, under the guise of reporter Chetter Hummin (a phonetic pronunciation of the words "cheater" and "human"), convinces Hari that the Galactic Empire is dying and that psychohistory must be developed into a practical science in order to save it. As Hummin, he convinces Seldon that Cleon's First Minister Eto Demerzel is pursuing him and that it is imperative for Hari to escape and to try making psychohistory practical. He introduces Hari to Dors Venabili, who becomes Hari's friend, protector and future wife. At the end of Seldon's "Flight" it is revealed that Hummin and Demerzel are actually the same person, and are both false identities of Olivaw. Demerzel appears again briefly in the epilogue to Forward the Foundation, which says he was one of the many in attendance at Hari Seldon's funeral.
Olivaw appears once more in Foundation and Earth, where Golan Trevize and Janov Pelorat from the Foundation eventually find the radioactive Earth, and Daneel's base on the Moon, and learn about his paternalistic manipulations, including the settlement of Alpha Centauri, the creation of Gaia, and psychohistory.
Based on an independent timeline, Olivaw was 19,230 years old during the events of Foundation and Earth. Olivaw is the longest-living Asimov character. He is theoretically immortal, due to the fact that he is a robot. However, even his parts need replacing, including his brain, and he eventually has to use a biological body.
Isaac Asimov said that the reason Olivaw appeared so often in his books was that his readers and publishers begged it of him.