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"The point sticks in your head: physics rules. Virtue does not triumph unless the physics allows it."
- Larry Niven

Reaction-Motors  
  A spacecraft engine that works by firing matter out at high speed.  

This idea makes use of conventional physics.

For three days Captain Grant had kept his great space-liner… ahead of the questing disintegrator rays of the Black Hawk only by burning his full battery of reaction-motors at their maximum power.
From Twelve Hours To Live, by Jack Williamson.
Published by Wonder Stories in 1931
Additional resources -

Here's what the drive looked like in operation:

…Grant saw a vague pink glow come into being in the jet, star-sprinkled sky behind…

The glow, he knew, was a fluorescent, electronic discharge in the radioactive gases jetting from the rockets of the racing ship...

The idea behind a reaction-motor is Newton's Third Law of Motion, which decrees that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For a spacecraft to move forward, you must throw matter out the other end.

Compare to the reactionless drive idea, which encompasses the various hyperdrives that allow a ship to move from one point to another in space, without traversing the space in between. See the inertialess drive from 'Doc' Smith's 1934 novel Triplanetary.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Twelve Hours To Live
  More Ideas and Technology by Jack Williamson
  Tech news articles related to Twelve Hours To Live
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