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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] By 1957 the National Inventors Council was still issuing lists of needed military inventions that included a death ray.[3] The concept was never put into action, but 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.

Contents

History

  • Archimedes designed and deployed of a "burning mirror" (not quite a death ray in the modern sense); it may have had an adjustable focal length to track and set fire to ships in the Roman fleet as it invaded Syracuse. However, the earliest accounts of the battle did not mention a "burning mirror", only Archimedes' ingenuity combined with a way to 'hurl fire' were involved on the Syracusan side. A Byzantine writer hundreds of years later is suggested to have imagined this 2200-year-old death ray, which is attributed to Archimedes.[4]
  • 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.[5] He was born in Detroit, and he claimed he worked for nine years as a student and protegĂ© of Charles P. Steinmetz.[6]
  • 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.[5]
  • Nikola Tesla claimed to have invented a death ray using what he termed teleforce in the 1930s and continued the claims up until his death.[7]
  • 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".[8][9][10]

References

  1. ^ "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. June 4, 1928. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F7071FFF3558167A93C6A9178DD85F4C8285F9. 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. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F60B1EF63E5D17738DDDA00A94DD405B848EF1D3. 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. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F50613F63C5F107A93C1A9178AD95F438585F9. Retrieved 2007-07-21. "Washington, DC, Nov. 2, 1959 (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. ^ The MythBusters television program attempted to replicate this idea, but found it highly impractical, partly due to the possibility of the power source (the sun) being unavailable (at night or on a cloudy day).
  5. ^ 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." 
  6. ^ "Death Stroke". Time (magazine). August 10, 1925. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,720718,00.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.'" 
  7. ^ "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. 
  8. ^ "Inventor Hides Secret of Death Ray". Popular Science. February 1940. http://books.google.com/books?id=2CYDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA117&dq=popular+science+%22death+ray%22. Retrieved 2008-12-11. 
  9. ^ "Welder at Work". Time magazine. August 10, 1936. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,762301,00.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" 
  10. ^ "Gadgeteers Gather". Time magazine. January 21, 1935. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,787991-2,00.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." 

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