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"There was a time when one old eccentric guy with a notebook could do something important to science. Now even the resources of a major university are often not enough."
- Jerry Pournelle

Bergenholm Drive  
  A device that renders a spaceship free of inertia.  

Endlessly the faint, faint voice went on, but Rodebush and Cleveland were no longer listening. Sensitive ultra-loops had been swung, and along the indicated line shot Triplanetary's super-ship at a velocity which she had never before even approached; the utterly incomprehensible, almost incalculable velocity attained by inertialess matter driven through an almost perfect vacuum by the Boise's maximum projector blasts—a blast which would lift her stupendous normal tonnage against a gravity five times that of Earth. At the full frightful measure of that velocity the super-ship literally annihilated distance, while ahead of her the furiously driven spy-ray beam fanned out in quest of the three Triplanetarians who were calling for help.

"Got any idea how fast we're going?" Rodebush demanded, glancing up for an instant from the observation plate. "We should be able to see him, since we could hear him, and our range is certainly as great as anything he can have."

"No. Can't figure velocity without any reliable data on how many atoms of matter exist per cubic meter out here." Cleveland was staring at the calculator. "It's constant, of course, at the value at which the friction of the medium is equal to our thrust. Incidentally, we can't hold it too long. We're running a temperature, which shows that we're stepping along faster than anybody ever computed before. Also, it points out the necessity for something that none of us ever anticipated needing in an open-space drive—refrigerators or radiating wall-shields or repellers or something of the sort. But to get back to our velocity—taking Throckmorton's estimates it figures somewhere near the order of magnitude of ten to the twenty-seventh. Fast enough, anyway, so that you'd better bend an eye on that plate. Even after you see them you won't know where they really are, because we don't know any of the velocities involved—our own, theirs, or that of the beam—and we may be right on top of them."

From Triplanetary, by E.E. 'Doc' Smith.
Published by Not known in 1934
Additional resources -

Robert Heinlein liked this idea too, and he used it in his 1941 classic Methuselah's Children. In the story, he pushes a spaceship close to the sun, then goes inertialess - the ship is kicked to the next star system by light pressure alone.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Triplanetary
  More Ideas and Technology by E.E. 'Doc' Smith
  Tech news articles related to Triplanetary
  Tech news articles related to works by E.E. 'Doc' Smith

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