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tractor beam




Possibly a shortening of attractor beam; note however the broader meaning of tractor (machinery that pulls something). Coined by E. E. "Doc" Smith in his 1931 novel Spacehounds of IPC, first serialised in Amazing Stories.


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tractor beam (plural tractor beams)

  1. (science fiction) A device-generated beam used to attract other objects from a distance.
    • 1931 August, Smith, E. E. "Doc", “Spacehounds of IPC”, in Amazing Stories, volume 6, number 5, page 549:
      Through it Stevens saw with satisfaction that the Forlorn Hope was not being abandoned; in the grip of powerful tractor beams, every fragment of the wreckage was following close behind them in their flight through space.
    • 1945 June, Leinster, Murray, “The Ethical Equations”, in Astounding Science Fiction, volume 35, number 4, page 122:
      By the way they're braced, there are tractor beams and pressor beams and—there are vacuum tubes that have grids but apparently work with cold cathodes.
    • 1977, George Lucas, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope:
      Han Solo: "We're caught in a tractor beam! It's pulling us in!"