Science Technology X-Files

Nikola Tesla Death Ray: A Weapon To End War

“The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena; it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”

― Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla, the bold futurist and groundbreaking inventor, once claimed to have invented a death ray that would end all war.

Tesla is known for his advances in electricity, circuits, and mechanical design. Many of his inventions, especially the Tesla coil, continues to do amazing things even after almost 70 years after his death. There is one invention that Nikola Tesla worked on, but could never complete. The Tesla Death Ray, also known as the death beam or the Tesla particle beam weapon was supposed to be so powerful that it could make war obsolete.

According to Tesla, the concentrated energy beam was so powerful that it could bring down an aircraft and kill thousands of people. The proposed death rays took the world by storm during the 1920s and 1930s.

Nikola Tesla Death Ray: A Weapon To End WarNikola Tesla seems to have thought that he could bring an end to war with more powerful weapons.

Nikola Tesla hails from Russia and during his adulthood, he was left with other two options of work; either joining a military or become a priest. Tesla opted for neither, but he leaned towards priesthood because he had an aversion to war. Later, he gave up both the career options and opted for weaponry designing. Besides designing the weapons, he also tried to market them to militaries as defensive weapons. Tesla was hoping to end the war with the help of powerful weapons.

However, what he failed to realize was, the right weapon would end the war, but it could destroy the human race itself. Tesla was an idealist, and so he started creating a super weapon.

What is actually Death Ray?

A 1934 New York Times article on the topic of Nikola Tesla’s death ray said that the weapon would send a particle beam through the air. The shaft was supposed to be so powerful that it could take out up to 10,000 aeroplanes from 250 miles away. Tesla intended that every country could be protected by this death ray, which was in reality, impractical.

Nikola Tesla Death Ray: A Weapon To End WarThe real mystery surrounding the Nikola Tesla death ray is how exactly it was to work. (Image Source)

However, Nikola Tesla claimed to have invented a “death beam” which he called teleforce in the 1930s and continued the claims up until his death. Tesla explained that “this invention of mine does not contemplate the use of any so-called ‘death rays’. Rays are not applicable because they cannot be produced in requisite quantities and diminish rapidly in intensity with distance. All the energy of New York City (approximately two million horsepower) transformed into rays and projected twenty miles, could not kill a human being, because, according to a well known law of physics, it would disperse to such an extent as to be ineffectual. My apparatus projects particles which may be relatively large or of microscopic dimensions, enabling us to convey to a small area at a great distance trillions of times more energy than is possible with rays of any kind. Many thousands of horsepower can thus be transmitted by a stream thinner than a hair, so that nothing can resist.”

Nikola Tesla Death Ray: A Weapon To End WarSources (left to right): Unknown artist in Aviation Week magazine July 1980; Hal Crawford. (Image Source)

Innumerable people have come up with their versions to fight, however, with Tesla’s death ray, a new idea was born. Tesla had to build it and sell it. It is not certain if Tesla ever completed building a death ray as none has been found officially. While some believe that the Tunguska Event was a result of Tesla’s death ray in action, there is no proof to testify the same. The most significant aspect of this event was that it flattened 770 square miles of Siberian forest that day. The location was in close vicinity of the Stony Tunguska River, Russia.

The theoretical death ray was supposed to be on Long Island in the United States. Although there is no argument that the distance between Long Island to Russia is around 250 miles, it is not certain if the event took place because of the death ray.

The working of a death ray is unknown. Tesla had plans for the weapon all sketched up, but he kept some aspects restricted to his head to prevent robbery. A theft was not new for the scientists who belonged to this age. Albert Einstein, the most famous scientist, spent the World War II protecting his inventions.  Tesla’s plan was never stolen. However, it was never sold either. The United States contemplated about buying the idea, in an attempt to keep it out of the enemy hands, but Nikola Tesla was hit by a car. He survived the freak accident but lost some memories and the death ray idea along with them.

Death rays eventually fell out of favor. Today, we are dominated by laser weapons that function almost like Tesla’s death ray. These laser weapons can shoot across a mile and are largely installed on military drones and boats. The powerful energy-directed weapon envisioned by Tesla never came into being. According to the U.S. Army, this might change by the 2020s, however, this time, energy-directed weapons would be used for war, not peace. This theory disproves Tesla’s theory that “given the right weapons, countries could cancel out the need for conflict.”


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