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