Death ray

The death ray or death beam was a theoretical particle beam or electromagnetic weapon of the 1920s through the 1930s that was claimed to have been invented independently by Nikola Tesla, Edwin R. Scott, Harry Grindell Matthews, and Graichen,[1] as well as others.[2] In 1957, the National Inventors Council was still issuing lists of needed military inventions that included a death ray.[3]



Edwin R. Scott, an inventor from San Francisco, claimed he was the first to develop a death ray that would destroy human life and bring down planes at a distance.[4] He was born in Detroit, and he claimed he worked for nine years as a student and protégé of Charles P. Steinmetz.[5]

Harry Grindell-Matthews tried to sell what he reported to be a death ray to the British Air Ministry in 1924. He was never able to show a functioning model or demonstrate it to the military.[4]

Nikola Tesla claimed to have invented a death ray which he called teleforce in the 1930s and continued the claims up until his death.[6]

Antonio Longoria in 1934 claimed to have a death ray that could kill pigeons from four miles away and could kill a mouse enclosed in a "thick walled metal chamber".[7][8][9]

The death ray in science fiction

Although the concept of a death ray was never put into action, it fueled science fiction stories and led to the science fiction concept of the hand held ray gun used by fictional heroes such as Flash Gordon. In Alfred Noyes' 1940 novel The Last Man (US title: No Other Man), a death ray developed by a German scientist named Mardok is unleashed in a global war and almost wipes out the human race.[10]

In popular culture

  • The idea that a death ray was possibly invented by Nikola Tesla and may have caused the Tunguska event was explored in an episode of Dark Matters: Twisted but True in a story entitled "Radio Waves of Death".

See also


  1. ^ To, Wireless (June 4, 1928). "Finds a 'Death Ray' Fatal to Humans. German Scientist Says it Inflames and Destroys Cells, Hence Aids in Disease. Expects to Split Atom. Dr. Graichen Has Device to Make Blind See With Light Sent Through the Skull.". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-07-21. "Berlin, June 3, 1928. The discovery of a new 'death ray,' capable of destroying, though not intended to destroy, human life, has just been announced by Dr. Graichen, a young physicist and engineer employed as an experimenter by the Siemens Halske Electric Company." 
  2. ^ "The 'Death Ray' Rivals". New York Times. May 29, 1924, Thursday. Retrieved 2007-07-21. "The inventors of a 'death ray' multiply every day. To H. Grindell-Matthews and Professor T.F. Wall have been added two other Englishmen, Prior and Raffe, and Grammachikoff, a Russian. Herr Wulle, 'chief of the militarists' in the Reichstag, has informed that body that the Government has a device that will bring down airplanes, stop tank engines, and 'spread a curtain of death.'" 
  3. ^ "Council Seeking Death Ray and Greaseless Bearing for Armed Forces". Associated Press in the New York Times. November 3, 1957, Sunday. Retrieved 2007-07-21. "Washington, DC, Nov. 2, 1957 (AP) Anyone who has a death ray lying around the house, a hole digger that disposes of the dirt as it goes along, or a greaseless ball bearing that can be used in temperatures ranging" 
  4. ^ a b "Denies British Invented 'Death Ray'. E.R. Scott Asserts He and Other Americans Preceded Grindell-Matthews.". New York Times. September 5, 1924, Friday. "Washington, DC, September 4, 1924 Edwin R. Scott an inventor of San Francisco, today challenged the assertion of Mr. Grindell-Matthews, who sailed for London on the Homeric last week, that the latter was the first to develop a 'death-ray' that would destroy human life and bring down planes at a distance." 
  5. ^ "Death Stroke". Time (magazine). August 10, 1925.,9171,720718,00.html. Retrieved 2007-07-21. "Utmost secrecy always shrouds the structural details of new munitions of war. This one, announced last week by its inventor, Dr. Edwin R. Scott, is called the 'death stroke' or 'canned lightning.' The Navy Department, which has been in touch with Dr. Scott's researches, hinted that the ultraviolet ray was involved, but Dr. Scott stated specifically: 'There is no ray or beam about it.'" 
  6. ^ "Nikola Tesla Dies. Prolific Inventor. Alternating Power Current's Developer Found Dead in Hotel Suite Here. Claimed a 'Death Beam'. He Insisted the Invention Could Annihilate an Army of 1,000,000 at Once.". New York Times. January 8, 1943, Friday. 
  7. ^ "Inventor Hides Secret of Death Ray". Popular Science. February 1940. Retrieved 2008-12-11. 
  8. ^ "Welder at Work". Time magazine. August 10, 1936.,9171,762301,00.html. Retrieved 2008-12-11. "Two years ago President Albert Burns of the Inventors' Congress declared that he had seen pigeons, rabbits, dogs and cats killed at a distance by a "death ray" which dissolved red blood corpuscles. The inventor, said President Burns, was Dr. Antonio Longoria" 
  9. ^ "Gadgeteers Gather". Time magazine. January 21, 1935.,9171,787991-1,00.html. Retrieved 2008-12-11. "Albert G. Burns of Oakland, Calif, was re-elected president of the Congress. It was Mr. Burns who last year revealed that a Clevelander named Antonio Longoria had invented a death-ray which killed rabbits, dogs & cats instantly. President Burns said that Inventor Longoria would withhold his secret until invasion threatened the U. S." 
  10. ^ Holland, Charles. "Alfred Noyes, The Last Man", St. Dunstan's Red and White, St. Dunstan's University.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • death ray — noun : a weapon that generates an intense beam of particles or radiation by which it destroys its target * * * a hypothetical ray that destroys life from a distance. [1915 20] * * * death ray noun An imaginary ray able to kill • • • Main Entry:… …   Useful english dictionary

  • death ray — /ˈdɛθ reɪ/ (say deth ray) noun Science Fiction a ray fired from a weapon that causes immediate death …   Australian English dictionary

  • death ray — a hypothetical ray that destroys life from a distance. [1915 20] * * * …   Universalium

  • death ray — noun Date: 1919 a weapon that generates an intense beam of particles or radiation by which it destroys its target …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • death ray — noun A fictional beam of radiation that can kill …   Wiktionary

  • Death Ray (magazine) — For other uses, see Deathray (disambiguation). Death Ray Editor Guy Haley Categories Science fiction Frequency Bimonthly First issue May 2007 Final issue Number October 2009 21 …   Wikipedia

  • Comedy Death-Ray — is a weekly alternative comedy show held every Tuesday in Los Angeles. CDR, as it is also known, was started by former Mr. Show writers/actors Scott Aukerman B.J. Porter, who also perform as The Fun Bunch. The first show was on October 1, 2002 at …   Wikipedia

  • Danger!! Death Ray — Directed by Gianfranco Baldanello Produced by Daniel P. Culvert …   Wikipedia

  • Comedy Death-Ray (album) — Comedy Death Ray Compilation album by Various artists Released September 11, 2007 …   Wikipedia

  • Ray Heatherton — Heatherton in 1934. Born June 1, 1909(1909 06 01) Orange, New Jersey Died August 15, 1997 …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.