28 Dec 2023

Summer science: Death rays and radio inventions

From Our Changing World, 5:00 am on 28 December 2023
A clipping from the Auckland Star about Auckland inventor Victor Penny. The Headline reads: Invention Mystery. Victor Penny Still Guargded. Secrecy maintained. Months on Somes Islands. "A Big Surprise Soon"

Newspaper clipping about Auckland inventor Victor Penny from the Auckland Star, 19 March 1936 Photo: Papers Past

In 1935, a series of extraordinary newspaper articles claimed a backyard inventor called Victor Penny was trying to build a death ray for the New Zealand government. 

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Welcome to the summer science series from Our Changing World. We're kicking off the holiday season with a science-themed episode from award-winning history podcast Black Sheep.

Victor Penny was a self-taught engineer and inventor who worked with early radio technology – and at a secret government laboratory on Matiu/Somes Island.

Listen to find out the truth – and the science – behind the sensational 'death ray' headlines.

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