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"[Science fiction is] nightmares and visions, always outlined by the barely possible."
- Gregory Benford

Tractor Beam  
  A force field used to pull objects.  

Read an early example of this specialized kind of force field. This is the first instance of the term "tractor beam."

"We'll carry off the pieces of that ship, too, QuinceŚwe may be able to get a lot of pointers from it," and Brandon swung mighty tractor beams upon the severed halves of the Jovian vessel, then extended a couple of smaller rays to meet the two little figures racing across the smooth green meadow toward the Sirius.
Technovelgy from Spacehounds of IPC, by E.E. 'Doc' Smith.
Published by Amazing Stories in 1931
Additional resources -

The same device is used in Triplanetary:

As they entered their retreat they felt their weight begin to increase. more and more force was applied to the helpless liner until it was moving at normal acceleration.

"What do you make of that, Costigan?" asked the captain. "Tractor beams?"

"Apparently. They've got something like that. They're taking us somewhere fast. I'll go get a couple of Standishes, and another suit of armor - we'd better dig in," - and soon the small room became a veritable fortress...

Although Smith certainly won the naming convention, Edmond Hamilton wrote about essentially the same thing three years earlier in Crashing Suns - the attractive ray.

Other examples of force fields in sf include the barrier force field fence from Robert Heinlein's 1940 novella Coventry and the force-field penknife from Isaac Asimov's 1951 novel Foundation (probably the basis for George Lucas' light saber from Star Wars).

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

Tractor Beam-related news articles:
  - Gravity Tractor Research By British Scientists
  - Tractor Beam Works Over Longer Distances
  - Physicists Build Repulsor / Tractor Beam
  - Tractor Beams? They're Working On It

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Nuclear Rockets To Fly In Space!

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