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The title says it all: what was the first reference in science fiction to a (3-D) hologram of anything?

Similar question here, but I'm asking when and what was the first use of a hologram generally, not necessarily a hologram of a person, but a hologram of anything, including a holographic informational display.

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2 Answers 2

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This Wiki page as suggested by Richard lists several instances of holography in science fiction.

The earliest work it refers to is The Carpathian Castle (1892) which features an early form of a hologram, but it seems this was a 2-dimensional hologram, so doesn't satisfy the question's requirement for a 3-D hologram.

The next earliest piece of work mentioned is The Forbidden Planet (1956), with the hologram in that being Krell's Educator Machine (kudos SylvainL).

Indeed, the first reference to a hologram does seem to be a hologram of a person, as referred to in cde's comment: Asimov's "Foundation" (the novelette) which was first published in 1942.

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    Nit: "Foundation" (the novelette) was published in 1942; Foundation (the novel) was published in 1951. What you wrote is fine but the title should be in quotation marks instead of italics.
    – user14111
    Jul 2, 2015 at 5:37
  • @user14111 good pick-up; I love nitpicks anyway! Jul 2, 2015 at 5:39
  • For the hologram in the The Forbidden Planet, I think that the mention is about the Krell's Educator Machine or Plastic Educator (scifiinterfaces.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/the-plastic-educator ). Even if the represented object is imaginary, coming from the mind of the user, this looks like an hologram to me.
    – SylvainL
    Jul 2, 2015 at 7:21
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1935: Liners of Time, a novel by John Russell Fearn, first published as a 4-part serial starting with Amazing Stories, May 1935, available at the Internet Archive.

The hero mistakes a holographic image of the heroine for the real person:

"Elna, what's the matter?" I exclaimed in alarm, striding forward.

Still no movement from her. She remained in the same position, head slightly bent to shield her features, her hands gripping the novel with its slightly lurid cover. She did not seem to have heard my entrance. Mystified, I went closer to her and seized her arm. At least that was what I intended to do, but can you imagine my astounded feelings when I went right through her! I fell heavily on the armchair, right through her body—yet when I staggered upright again she was still there, absorbed in that book. I looked undemeath at her face, but it vanished in an impenetrable shadow.

The villain explains:

"I have said before, Commander, that there are a lot of things we know in the Age of Problems, that have never been even heard of elsewhere. Perhaps, after all, you are entitled to an explanation. There is, as perhaps you know, a certain scientific theoretical reasoning that it is possible for me to put into practical use."

"What reasoning is that?" I snapped.

"The endowment of a two dimensional image with the necessary third-dimension to make it a three-dimensional solid."

"This is all by-talk!" I said hotly, but he interrupted me with raised hand.

"Far from it. Commander; far from it. The endowment of a two-dimensional image with a three-dimensional solidity is but an elementary effort of the Age of Problems. In fact, this three-dimensional effect produces a perfect solid, so life-like that you mistook a photograph of Elna Folson for the real thing!"

[. . . .]

"On the trip up last time I took a photograph of her on the promenade deck. She was reading a novel—the one you have seen. Careful treatment on my part enabled me to remove everything from the negative except her own form. I even eradicated the chair in which she sat. The finished effect is that she appears to be lounging in mid-air. Naturally I reversed the negative to positive by including thiocarbamide in the developing solution. All that is necessary to resolve this positive photograph into a three-dimensional solid of the original, is to use this three-dimensional ray." He switched on another of his small instruments, and the resultant beam seemed to pass right through the wall.

"You see, this ray contains the power of having infinite wave-length; it passes through anything. Now, what is done is this: The original film or slide of Elna is put in the projector gate in the ordinary way, and shown—but the illuminant is not a carbon arc, but this ray. I had better add that the ray can be shortened or lengthened as desired, so as to resolve the image at any desired distance; nor, by a secret process of my own, does the image ever get beyond life-size, no matter how distant it might be. Hence, this photographed image is projected wherever necessary, and the screen on which it appears is merely created by the motes of dust in the air itself. The finished result is a projected photograph so natural and solid that only careful inspection can prove the difference. I had merely to project Elna's image into the next suite about the position of the armchair—observe if I had it correctly arranged by the simple expedient of the keyhole—and there you are. Nothing can block the ray, of course, not even this solid wall."

"I admit the cleverness of the idea, but what use is it?" I demanded. "Why do you want to project this picture of Elna, anyhow?"

"So that anybody would swear, if necessary, that Elna Folson was sitting reading in her suite at such and such a time. Just a little safeguard, though it will probably never be needed. . . . There is another thing. I usually take a moving picture instead of a still, and also a voice record. This of course is merely an advanced system of this childish slide idea. I knew I should need that photo of Elna Folson when I took it—and I knew also that you would come and ask me all about it."

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