November 21, 1898

Plans To Dispense With Artillery Of The Present Type

by Nikola Tesla,

. . . Referring to my latest invention [the telautomaton], I wish to bring out a point which has been overlooked. I arrived, as has been stated, at the idea through entirely abstract speculations on the human organism, which I conceived to be a self-propelling machine, the motions of which are governed by impressions received through the eye.

Endeavoring to construct a mechanical model resembling in its essential, material features the human body, I was led to combine a controlling device, or organ sensitive to certain waves, with a body provided with propelling and directing mechanism, and the rest naturally followed. Originally the idea interested me only from the scientific point of view, but soon I saw that I had made a departure which sooner or later must produce a profound change in things and conditions presently existing. I hope this change will be for the good only, for, if it were otherwise, I wish that I had never made the invention.


The future may or may not bear out my present convictions, but I can not refrain from saying that it is difficult for me to see at present how, with such a principle brought to great perfection, as it undoubtedly will be in the course of time, guns can maintain themselves as weapons. We shall be able, by availing ourselves of this advance, to send a projectile at much greater distance, it will not be limited in any way by weight or amount of explosive charge, we shall be able to submerge it at command, to arrest it in its flight, and call it back, and send it out again and explode it at will, and, more than this, it will never make a miss, since all chance in this regard, if hitting the object of attack were at all required, is eliminated.

But the chief feature of such a weapon is still to be told; namely, it may be made to respond only to a certain note or tune, it may be endowed with selective power. Directly such an arm is produced, it becomes almost impossible to meet it with a corresponding development. It is this feature, perhaps more than in its power of destruction, that its tendency to arrest the development of arms and to stop warfare will reside.

With renewed thanks, I remain,

Very truly yours,
N. Tesla.

New York, November 19, 1898