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Money raised to save Tesla lab

It may be time to break out some bubbly, fans of scientist Nikola Tesla.

An online campaign to raise $850,000 for a Shoreham nonprofit to buy Tesla's former lab off Route 25A has met -- and surpassed -- its goal.

With contributions from thousands of donors, the $850,000 was raised as of Tuesday night. As of last evening, more than $949,000 had been raised. The fundraiser runs for another month.

All the funds are going to the nonprofit group Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, founded in 1996 to save and turn the abandoned lab into a museum and research center dedicated to Tesla, who invented major components of modern radio and electricity.

"We were overwhelmed by it," said Jane Alcorn, president of Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, of the recent outpouring. "It's been so incredible beyond what we expected would happen."

Wardenclyffe's owner, Belgian company Agfa, is asking $1.6 million for the 16-acre site. With state grants, Alcorn expects to be able to make an offer.

Last week, Matthew Inman, a Tesla fan and popular Internet cartoonist who runs The Oatmeal blog, wrote about the Shoreham group's efforts to buy Wardenclyffe and started the fundraiser.

"He was the catalyst and the tipping point," Alcorn said. "We needed someone like him that had the notoriety and the following to bring attention to this.

"It's very hard to bring this to the public conversation unless you have someone like Matthew who can help with that."

Two donations of $33,333 each were pledged Tuesday -- one from a Colorado hotel owner, Alcorn said.

The other came from Babylon filmmaker Joe Sikorski, who wrote a screenplay about Tesla's life entitled "Fragments from Olympus" and was hoping to start production this fall at Wardenclyffe. He donated the movie's seed money, as well as $11,000 of his own, to the fundraiser.

"I feel great because I literally would have nightmares many times thinking the property was going to be sold or burned down," Sikorski said. With Wardenclyffe's future preserved, he intends to start over on his film. "Now we can move forward," Sikorski said. "We're still going to make this movie -- we just need the money now."

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