The near-obsessive devotion of Nikola Tesla fans around the globe has finally paid off.
According to The New York Times, a deal was struck Friday that will allow Tesla lovers to buy the beloved, bizarre scientist’s Wardenclyffe laboratory in Shoreham from current owner the Agfa Corp.
Wardenclyffe, which Tesla used as his primary work space between 1903 and 1915, has been a cause celebre for Tesla enthusiasts for years but devotees have struggled to raise the money needed to save the 16-acre property and turn it into a museum. That began to change a few months ago.
Newspapers publicized the effort to commemorate Tesla led by fans on Long Island, which led Matthew Inman, an Internet cartoonist who runs the blog The Oatmeal, to get involved. Inman’s aptly named campaign, “Operation Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum” caught fire, and another site, Indiegogo.com, also threw its weight behind the campaign.
The two websites, along with a core group of Long Island supporters, reportedly raised about $1.4 million, enough to strike a deal with Agfa, which had listed the property at $1.6 million.
Tesla is renowned for his pioneering with AC electrical current, as well as far-reaching and momentous discoveries in radio, engineering, theoretical physics and sound transmission. Perhaps most astonishingly, he envisioned the AND gate, a crucial piece of computer technology, decades before anyone else knew how to build a computer, or even started trying.
His renown has, if anything, increased due to his legendary idiosyncrasies. Tesla was obsessed with the number three, afraid to touch human hair, could not dine without 18 linen napkins and was reportedly never … er, intimate, with another person.
Both the site and the man are truly deserving of commemoration. Wardenclyffe was designed by renowned architect Stanford White. The two other labs where Tesla did the bulk of his work, one in Colorado and one in New York City, are long gone. And he never got the renown he deserved while he lived.
Many believe Tesla’s work did more for us than that of Thomas Edison, who went to great lengths to destroy him, or Guglielmo Marconi, who found fame and fortune from radio technology Tesla largely pioneered.
Tesla died poor and alone in 1943, revered by few, in a hotel room in Manhattan. He deserved better then, and still does.
This is a fine moment for Long Island, for fans of science, and for the enthusiasts who never lost hope they might find a permanent way to memorialize Nikola Tesla and celebrate his visionary work and extraordinary mind.
It’s also a triumph for the many people who know little of Tesla but may learn of him through a museum in Shoreham, and might have their own scientific curiosity kindled by his story.
Pictured above: The Tesla Science Center that was once the laboratory of physicist-inventor Nikola Tesla. A six-week Internet crowdfunding effort has raised more than $1.3 million to restore it for the site of a future museum. (AP Photo)