Science

The case for a Nikola Tesla museum

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

In June, TED favorite Marco Tempest told us about the “electric rise and fall of Nikola Tesla,” the late 1800s inventor who held more than 700 patents, including for concepts still used today like alternating current, radio, remote control and robotics. However, after building a wireless telegraphy center in upstate New York that he envisioned being used to contact other planets, Tesla’s reputation was irreparably tarnished. He became a recluse, living alone at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel until his death in 1943.

The website The Oatmeal recently called Nikola Tesla “the greatest geek who ever lived.” And now the site is campaigning for a Tesla museum.

Tesla’s laboratory — known as Wardenclyffe — was located in Shoreham, New York, and was abandoned in 1917 when funding for his telegraphy project was cut. The gigantic tower that once loomed over the property has long since been destroyed. But Tesla’s underground lab has remained in tact.

The property is currently for sale for $1.6 million. And, according to Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal, a non-profit is trying to buy it to build the only Tesla museum in the United States, the Nikola Tesla Science Center. (There is currently a Tesla museum in Belgrade, Serbia.) New York State is even offering a matching grant of $850K to make the property a historic site, meaning that only $850K needs to be raised.

And thus, the website has launched the campaign with a NSFW title.

Operation Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum is brought to you through the crowdfunding site Ingiegogo.com. Donate $50 and get a Wardenclyffe t-shirt and Tesla-themed bumper sticker. Give $1,000 and get a poster autographed by Tesla’s last remaining relative. So far $426K has been raised with 44 days left to go in the campaign.

But that’s not all.

The Oatmeal points out that the money being raised is for the purchase of the property only, not for the building of the center itself. The site is also issuing a call out for corporate sponsors.

“J.P. Morgan, you there? One hundred years ago you believed in Tesla and backed him financially. Honor his legacy and help him out again,” Inman writes. “General Electric: Thomas Edison founded GE and screwed Tesla out of A TON of money. It’s never too late to make amends. Sponsor this museum! The internet will love you forever, I promise.”

Another potential backer Inman has in mind: Christian Bale, the star of the upcoming Nikola Tesla biopic.