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Editorial: Internet sparks hope for Tesla lab

Tesla's wireless experimental station in Shoreham, Long Island.

Tesla's wireless experimental station in Shoreham, Long Island. (Aug. 22, 1907) Credit: Bettmann/CORBIS

In life, toiling at labs on Long Island and elsewhere, Nikola Tesla didn't reap the great riches he deserved. In death, he hasn't always gotten the credit, respect and fame that are due him. Still, his genius led to an extraordinary proportion of the world's modern miracles. It's long past time to honor his memory.

In radio, electricity, engineering, theoretical physics, sound transmission, and in imagining and enabling the invention of the computer, the Serbian-American Tesla was an unparalleled visionary. He was also, particularly in his later years, astonishingly compulsive, which has in some ways added to his mystique.

Early in the 20th century, he did his research on Long Island, in Shoreham, in a building designed by renowned architect Stanford White. The other main labs where he worked, in New York City and Colorado, were destroyed long ago. Only Shoreham's Wardenclyffe remains as a place that could be preserved to commemorate his work.

For years, a local group doggedly pursued the preservation, but fundraising has not been easy. About $1.6 million is needed to buy the property from the Belgian multinational company that owns it, and almost $1 million has been raised thus far. Along with some state capital funds, that may well be enough, and the campaign that sparked current donations is scheduled to continue for several more weeks.

The nonprofit Tesla Science Center has steadily advanced his cause. Recently, Matthew Inman, an Internet cartoonist who runs the popular blog The Oatmeal, called Jane Alcorn, the center's president, and set up a fundraising campaign on his blog. Money started rolling in. How lovely an irony that computers, whose existence flows in part from Tesla's work, are playing a role in perpetuating his name.