Years ago, I read a magazine article, possibly in Discover, about how in the 17th or 18th century, someone (possibly a Frenchman?) was writing about interplanetary journeys of men armed with disintegrator pistols.

I've been looking around, trying to figure out if I'm mis-remembering.

I found a webpage that reads:

Cyrano de Bergerac's Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon (1659) and Sun (1687) include marvelous inventions such as solar energy converters and talking machines. ... The first known fictions even vaguely set in future time are Francis Cheynell's six-page political tract Aulicus: His Dream of the King's Second Coming to London (1644) and Jacques Guttin's Epigone, Story of the Future Century (1659). ...Voltaire took a similar stance in Micromégas (1732), notable as the first known story of visitors from other planets: two giants...


All that looks great, but none of that mentions disintegrator pistols.

Much, much later, in 1898, Edison's Conquest of Mars and War of the Worlds featured disintegrator weapons and death rays.

Any input would be appreciated. Thanks.

1 Answer 1


Science-Fiction: The Early Years by Everett Bleiler is a pretty thorough encyclopedia of early science fiction, I looked through all the stories listed under the index entry "Disintegrator Rays", the earliest one was "A Century Hence or, a Romance of 1941" by George Tucker, written around 1841. The description says "The great scientific triumph of the day is a telescope with a thirty-foot mirror, which can focus a beam so tight that it can cut through steel bars (like a modern laser)."

  • 1
    I suppose I may have mixed up the "disintegrator" with a fantastic voyage or the pre-sci-fi era: sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/fantastic_voyages lists various early stories which may have been the "interplanetary" stories that I read about, even if they did not have "disintegrators."
    – Rick
    Apr 2, 2014 at 1:41

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