Nikola Tesla was an inventor and engineer. He found particular success in the field of electricity. His inventions, specifically the Tesla coil, continue to do amazing things even nearly 70 years after his death. The inventions he completed in his lifetime are not the whole of his legacy. There is at least one invention that Nikola Tesla certainly worked on, but never completed. That is the Nicola Tesla death ray, also known as the Tesla death beam and the Tesla particle beam weapon.
It is said that Nikola Tesla’s childhood in Russia left him only two options for work when he reached adulthood. He could either join the military or become a priest. He did neither, but he leaned toward priesthood because he supposedly had an aversion to war.
Later, after he broke free from his preordained career choices, he designed weaponry (among other things), attempting to market them to militaries as defensive weapons. Nikola Tesla seems to have thought that he could bring an end to war with more powerful weapons. Tesla was an idealist and he put his brilliant mind to the task of creating a superweapon.
The Nicola Tesla Death Ray Would Make War Obsolete
The 11 July 1934 New York Times and Herald Tribune articles on the topic stated Tesla invented a death beam that could be used against ground-based infantry or aircraft. It was going to be so powerful that it could take out an army from 200 miles away. Tesla envisioned a world where the death ray protected every country, making war impractical.
The weapon had another use besides the total devastation of military forces. In times of peace, the device could be utilized to transmit power over long distances.
“The beam, intended chiefly for defense, will be projected from an electric power plant, ready to be put in action at the first sign of danger. The cost of operation will be insignificant, as the plant is chiefly intended for use in emergency. But to make the investment profitable in times of peace it may be commercially employed for a number of purposes.”Every Week Magazine, October 21, 1934
How Did It Work?
The real mystery surrounding of the death ray is its operation.
Tesla called this new weapon Teleforce. Contrary to what the New York Herald and other publications wrote, the weapon didn’t utilize rays at all. According to Tesla, rays are impractical because they disperse and weaken over distance. Instead, the weapon projected concentrated particles through a specialized vacuum chamber and a Tesla turbine.
Tesla stated Teleforce required four mechanisms to work:
- A mechanism to use energy manifestations in free air (vacuum tube).
- An apparatus to produce and control large quantities of electrical current (50,000 volts).
- A method to intensify the electrical current.
- A method to produce “tremendous electrical repellant force.”
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Tesla had plans for the weapon drawn up. He kept certain aspects of it in his head to prevent thievery. This was not unusual for Tesla, nor was thievery from scientists unusual at the time. The most famous scientist of all time — Albert Einstein — spent the World War II era protecting his inventions and discoveries.
Did Tesla Complete Teleforce?
Tesla most likely never completed the Death Ray. From the onset, he was pessimistic in obtaining the funding for such a project. Tesla shopped the idea around to a variety of nations. According to a PBS article, the USSR showed the most interest in his idea, which he presented to Amtorg Trading Corporation (ATC) in New York City in 1937. ATC was a Soviet front company for weapons. In 1939, the Soviet Union conducted a successful test of a portion of the Teleforce in which Tesla received $25,000.
No one is sure if Tesla ever completed the weapon, though none has officially been found. Some believe that the Tunguska Event was actually Nikola Tesla’s death ray in action. However, there is no clear evidence linking Tesla to the event that took place in Russia. There is no arguing that the distance from Long Island to Russia is much more than the projected 200-mile range of Tesla’s weapon.
Fade into Obscurity
While the United States contemplated buying the idea, supposedly to keep it out of enemy hands. However, Nikola Tesla subsequently became injured after getting hit by a car. He reportedly lost some of his mental functioning and the death ray idea with it, though he survived.
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What technology could possibly produce such a weapon and would it have worked? We may never know. Even if a similar weapon is built, we will never know if it is how Tesla meant for it to be. However, when you bring Nikola Tesla into the equation, nothing is impossible.