|“||What are you, an Andorian or a Vulcan?
I am Andorian, as you can see. I simply defer to logic...
|— a security officer and Dylyp Azeli|
2409 ("Treasure Trading Station")
The Vulcans were a species originating from the planet Vulcan. They were widely known for their logical minds and stoic culture. The Vulcans were a founding member of the United Federation of Planets.
Culturally one of the most fascinating species in the Federation, the Vulcans were once an extremely violent and emotional people (even by Earth standards) who waged almost constant warfare on one another. (TOS: "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"; VOY: "Random Thoughts") Paranoia and homicidal rage were common. (ENT: "Impulse") They believed in a variety of gods, such as war, peace and death. (TNG: "Gambit, Part II") As their level of technology improved, the Vulcans eventually reached a point where their violent nature threatened species extinction. (ENT: "Awakening")
In an effort to avoid this fate, a Vulcan named Surak developed a new philosophy thereby igniting the Time of Awakening. Surak maintained that the root cause of all the problems on Vulcan lay in the uncontrolled outpouring of the people's emotions. His followers swore to live their lives by an ethical system devised by Surak and based purely on logical principles. Emotions were to be controlled and repressed. (TAS: "Yesteryear")
Although this new philosophy spread rapidly across Vulcan, a minority, many of whom were known as "those who march beneath the Raptor's wings", rejected Surak's ideals. A destructive war began including the use of atomic bombs and among the victims was Surak himself. (ENT: "Awakening")
Eventually, however, those who opposed logic left Vulcan and founded colonies elsewhere (TNG: "Gambit, Part II")—most notably on the planet Romulus, where they founded what eventually became the Romulan Star Empire. (TOS: "The Enterprise Incident"; TNG: "Unification II") At some point in history, the Romulans and the Vulcans engaged in a hundred-year long war against one another. The war was instigated by the actions of a member of the Q Continuum. (VOY: "Death Wish")
Another group that rejected Surak's philosophy was known as the "V'tosh ka'tur" or "Vulcans without logic". The V'tosh ka'tur believed in controlling emotions by allowing themselves to actively experience them rather than suppressing them. Many of these also left Vulcan, and took up a nomadic existence. (ENT: "Fusion")
At least one planet studied by the Federation was inhabited by "proto-Vulcan humanoids" without warp technology or any direct ties to the Vulcans or the Romulans. The Mintakans possessed technology identified as Bronze Age, but their culture was described by Federation scientists as generally peaceful and highly logical, much like their Vulcan brethren. Eventually, an error during a Federation science mission led to the exposure of Mintakans to Federation technology and society, exempting them from the Prime Directive. (TNG: "Who Watches The Watchers")
The official First Contact between Vulcans and Humans came on 5 April 2063 when a Vulcan survey ship detected the warp flight of Zefram Cochrane's Phoenix. The Vulcans met with Cochrane at his launch site on the day following the flight. (Star Trek: First Contact)
The Vulcans eventually became Earth's "big brothers" in a way, advising Earth officials on how to proceed into the galaxy. The Vulcan High Command considered Humans volatile and similar to Vulcans before the Time of Awakening, and so attempted to slow down Humanity's move into the galaxy until the time was right. (ENT: "The Forge")
By the 24th century, Vulcan remained one of the principal Federation members, and was deeply involved in all levels of that society. Their tradition of exploration continued; in the 24th century, a Vulcan ship was the first to make formal contact with a Gamma Quadrant civilization, upon encountering the Wadi. (DS9: "Move Along Home") They were at the forefront of exploration in the Gamma Quadrant, encountering the Rakhari and finding the remains of the Hur'q civilization. (DS9: "The Sword of Kahless")
Despite the enmity between the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire, some Vulcans attempted to forge a more cordial relationship with their cousins, ultimately hoping to reunify the two cultures. Many of these efforts met with little success. (TNG: "Unification II") In the wake of the Reman uprising, as well as the improved relations between the Romulans and the Federation after the Dominion War, it was unclear what the status of this movement was.
The Vulcans held a number of spiritual beliefs, though little is known about the details. Their religious system was polytheistic. They also believed in the katra, the soul and consciousness of a person, which could be transferred psionically prior to death. (TAS: "Yesteryear"; Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; Star Trek III: The Search for Spock; TNG: "Gambit, Part I"; ENT: "Awakening")
Vulcans were known for their high degree of honesty. They were extremely reluctant to tell a lie, and indeed it was said that "Vulcans could not lie". However, they would do so for what they perceived as logical reasons, though they rarely referred to their dishonesty as "lying." (TOS: "The Enterprise Incident"; Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) On at least one occasion, Spock lied without any apparent logical reason (and, in fact, for a reason apparently consisting of nothing more than humor), when he claimed to not have seen Kirk's last orders to himself and Doctor McCoy. (TOS: "The Tholian Web") However, this may, in fact, have been a result of those orders themselves, as Kirk had, in the orders, instructed Spock to follow McCoy's lead on intuitive and emotional matters, and McCoy had just refused to admit to seeing the orders.
Development of a Vulcan's life of logic began at a young age. Vulcan parents utilized learning tools, such as pleenoks, to train their infants in primary logic. (VOY: "Human Error") Vulcan children then learned to detach themselves from their emotions at an early age.
Vulcans sometimes had mates chosen for them by their parents at the age of seven. The mates were joined in a ceremony that linked them telepathically in a manner that was "less than a marriage, more than a betrothal". When the two came of age and underwent the pon farr, the link compelled them to follow through with full marital rituals, which cemented their relationship. (TOS: "Amok Time"; ENT: "Breaking the Ice")
If, for whatever reason, the female did not wish to go through with the marriage, then the ceremony of koon-ut-kal-if-fee ("marriage or challenge") was invoked. The male fought for the right to keep his mate against a challenger of her choosing. The female became the property of the male who won the contest, unless he chose to release her. The koon-ut-kal-if-fee was a fight to the death. (TOS: "Amok Time")
Contrary to stereotype, Vulcans did possess emotions; indeed, Vulcan emotions were far more intense, violent, and passionate than those of many other species, including even Humans. (TNG: "Sarek") It was this passionate, explosive emotionality that Vulcans blamed for the vicious cycle of wars which nearly devastated their planet. As such, they focused their mental energies on mastering them.
The essence of their logical society was in arriving at the truth through logical process. Emotions were illogical, thus making them impure, and deterrent to truth. Vulcans were born with the same emotions that afflicted their violent ancestors, but continual mental conditioning generally gave them the impassivity they sought. (TAS: "Yesteryear")
Though not all could arrive at the ultimate pure logical state, the exacting process of mental control gave Vulcans enough to conform to the ideals of Vulcan society. The ultimate level of logical thought was achieved through the attainment of kolinahr, which was said to purge them of all remaining emotions. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
Vulcans considered death to be the completion of a journey. Therefore, they did not fear it happening; however the loss of one's katra was to be avoided if possible, since the katra lived on beyond the physical death. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
Although Vulcans were highly integrated into the Federation, in the 23rd century, some Vulcans viewed service in Starfleet to be less prestigious than attending the Vulcan Science Academy. (TOS: "Journey to Babel")