A ceremony Monday in Shoreham honoring the legacy of the late inventor Nikola Tesla granted him something that eluded him in life -- public recognition of his inventions and genius.
Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic traveled thousands of miles to Long Island specifically to unveil the monument at Tesla's former Wardenclyffe Tower laboratory.
"We believe that one day in the future he will be recognized in glory," Nikolic said through an interpreter. "His inventions at the time were only conceivable through the imagination."
Moments later, Nikolic walked over to the monument -- a life-size, granite sculpture of the inventor in a suit and tie, holding an object in each hand -- and quietly removed the Serbian national flag covering the statue.
Tesla, a Serbian-American, invented major components used in modern radio and electricity, only to see fame and riches go to others. He died penniless in 1943 at The New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan; he was 87.
More than 200 people attended the dedication of the statue, placed atop a small mound covered in gray stones. The lab at the site is to be developed into a museum. During the 90-minute ceremony, about 15 speakers addressed the crowd, which included several Serbian, New York State and federal officials, and Tesla's last living relative.
"People have to realize just how important Tesla was," his great-nephew, William Terbo, 84, of New Jersey, said after the ceremony. "He is the most inventive technical genius since Leonardo da Vinci."
Two other speakers also referred to Tesla's legacy.
"Genius lived here. Genius worked here," said Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton). "And with this museum and statue, we ensure that future generations will know that."
Yacov Shamash, dean of Stony Brook University's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said there is a collective obligation to recognize and foster Tesla's contributions to help benefit those who might follow in his footsteps.
"Our common responsibility is to encourage, motivate and train the next generation of scientists and engineers," Shamash said. "The inventors of the next revolutionary technology that will advance our society [are coming], and we are compelled and obligated to provide guidance."