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Core tenets:
Year proposed: c. 1935

Original proponents:

  • Nikola Tesla

Current proponents:

  • Tesla scholars

Teleforce is a charged particle beam projector that Nikola Tesla claimed to have conceived of after studying the Van de Graaff generator.[1][2] Tesla described the weapon as being able to be used against ground-based infantry or for anti-aircraft purposes.[3][4] It was mentioned publicly in the New York Sun and The New York Times on July 11, 1934.[5][6] The press called it a "peace ray" or death ray.[7][8]


Tesla described Teleforce's operation:

The nozzle would send concentrated beams of particles through the free air, of such tremendous energy that they will bring down a fleet of 10,000 enemy airplanes at a distance of 200 miles from a defending nation's border and will cause armies to drop dead in their tracks.[3][4]

Tesla's records indicate that the device is based on a narrow stream of small tungsten pellets that are accelerated via high voltage (by means akin to his magnifying transformer).[2] The pellets, propelled out of the tube by electrostatic repulsion, would travel at 48 times the speed of sound.[citation needed]

In a letter that was written to J. P. Morgan, Jr. on November 29, 1934, Tesla described the weapon:

I have made recent discoveries of inestimable value... The flying machine has completely demoralized the world, so much that in some cities, as London and Paris, people are in mortal fear from aerial bombing. The new means I have perfected afford absolute protection against this and other forms of attack. ... These new discoveries, which I have carried out experimentally on a limited scale, have created a profound impression. One of the most pressing problems seems to be the protection of London and I am writing to some influential friends in England hoping that my plan will be adopted without delay. The Russians are very anxious to render their borders safe against Japanese invasion and I have made them a proposal which is being seriously considered.[9]

Critical inventions[edit]

In total, the components and methods included:

  • An apparatus for producing manifestations of energy in free air instead of in a high vacuum as in the past.
  • A mechanism for generating tremendous electrical force.
  • A means of intensifying and amplifying the force developed by the second mechanism.
  • A new method for producing a tremendous electrical repelling force. This would be the projector, or gun, of the invention.[10][11]

The tube would project a single row of highly charged particles and there would be no dispersion, even at great distance.[citation needed] Because the cross section of the charge carriers could be reduced to almost microscopic dimensions and since the charged particles would self-focus via "gas focusing," an immense concentration of energy, practically irrespective of distance, could be attained.[citation needed] In 1940, Tesla estimated that each station would cost no more than $2,000,000 and could have been constructed in a few months.[citation needed]

Tesla claimed to have worked on plans for a directed-energy weapon from the early 1900s until his death.[12][13] In 1937, at a luncheon in his honor concerning the death ray, Tesla stated, "But it is not an experiment... I have built, demonstrated and used it. Only a little time will pass before I can give it to the world."[2]

In 1937, Tesla wrote a treatise, "The Art of Projecting Concentrated Non-dispersive Energy through the Natural Media", concerning charged particle beam weapons.[14] Tesla published the document in an attempt to expound on the technical description of a "superweapon that would put an end to all war." This treatise is currently in the Nikola Tesla Museum archive in Belgrade. It describes an open-ended vacuum tube with a gas jet seal that allows particles to exit, a method of charging particles to millions of volts, and a method of creating and directing non-dispersive particle streams (through electrostatic repulsion).[14] Tesla tried to interest the US War Department,[15] the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia in the device.[16]

During the period in which the negotiations were being carried on, Tesla claimed that efforts had been made to steal the invention. His room had been entered and his papers had been scrutinized, but the thieves, or spies, left empty-handed. He said that there was no danger that his invention could be stolen for he had at no time committed any part of it to paper. The blueprint for the teleforce weapon was all in his mind.[17]


  1. ^ "Tesla's Ray". Time. 23 July 1934. 
  2. ^ a b c Seifer, Marc. "Tesla's "Death Ray" Machine". Retrieved 4 July 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Beam to Kill Army at 200 Miles, Tesla's Claim on 78th Birthday". New York Times. 11 July 1934. 
  4. ^ a b "'Death Ray' for Planes". New York Times. 22 September 1940. 
  5. ^ "Beam to Kill Army at 200 Miles, Tesla's Claim On 78th Birthday". New York Herald Tribune. July 11, 1934. Retrieved 2007-07-21. 
  6. ^ "Tesla, At 78, Bares New 'Death-Beam'. Invention Powerful Enough to Destroy 10,000 Planes 250 Miles Away, He Asserts. Defensive Weapon Only. Scientist, in Interview, Tells of Apparatus That He Says Will Kill Without Trace". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-09-04. "Nikola Tesla, father of modern methods of generation and distribution of electrical energy, who was 78 years old yesterday, announced a new invention, or inventions, which he said, he considered the most important of the 700 made by him so far." 
  7. ^ "Tesla, at 78, Bares New 'Death-Beam'". New York Times. 11 July 1934. 
  8. ^ "Tesla Invents Peace Ray". New York Sun. 10 July 1934. 
  9. ^ Tesla FAQ. Retrieved 2013-12-03
  10. ^ "Death-Ray Machine Described". New York Sun. 11 July 1934. 
  11. ^ "A Machine to End War". Feb. 1935.
  12. ^ "United States Patent Office Nikola Tesla,of New York, N.Y. VALVULAR CONDUIT Specification of Letters Patent Patented Feb. 3, 1920 Numbered 1.329.559 UNITED STATES PATENT OFFICE Patent No. 1,329,559
  13. ^ "TESLA, AT 78, BARES NEW 'DEATH-BEAM'". New York Times. 1934. Retrieved 29 June 2012.  same article at
  14. ^ a b Seifer 2001, p. 454
  15. ^ "Aerial Defense 'Death-Beam' Offered to U.S. By Tesla" 12 July 1940
  16. ^ Seifer, Marc J. "Tesla's "death ray" machine". Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  17. ^ O'Neill, John J. "Tesla Tries To Prevent World War II (unpublished Chapter 34 of Prodigal Genius)". PBS. 

External links[edit]