I’ve been enjoying the TV Tropes website a lot recently. Today I created my first full-fledged trope entry: the sonic stunner.
Feel free to chime in with other instances in SF literature, film, animation, and whatever. I’m especially interested in turning up uses prior to 1958, the year of Alan E. Nourse’s Gold In The Sky. As I note on the page, I am pretty confident this was the trope codifier; Nourse explains the effects and limitations of the Markheim gun in some detail, and these seem to have been copied by later authors who felt less and less need for explanation as SF fans got used to the concept.
However, there may very well have been ur-examples other than the Kornbluth one I note from 1941. They would have been quite plausible back to the beginning of the Campbellian revolution in 1938, and not implausible in earlier pre-Campbellian space opera.
Hm…I found a copy of Fire-Power and the reference probably wasn’t intended to be to a sonic stunner but to something more like a wireless Taser. So Alan E. Nourse looks like the actual originator on this one, not just the codifier. Unless someone sends me an earlier instance…
UPDATE: I’ve concluded that Nourse’s “Markheim guns” were actually Static Stun Guns and derived from originals by Robert Heinlein. So far, my commenters have found sonic stunners going back to 1948 (H. Beam Piper), but the trope seems to have been defined by Randall Garret’s “Hunting Lodge” (1953).