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.
- (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.
science fiction device
- “tractor beam” in Jeff Prucher, editor, Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction, Oxford; New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 2007, →ISBN.
- tractor beam n. at the OED Science Fiction Citations Project