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Filler: Nikola Tesla statue dedicated, an overdue tribute to a great scientist

A couple walks past a large banner with

A couple walks past a large banner with the photograph of scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla Monday following the dedication of the Tesla monument at Wardenrclyffe in Shoreham. (Sept. 23, 2013) Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Call it a fitting tribute to a master technologist: the dedication of a statue and monument to Nikola Tesla in Shoreham Monday was livestreamed worldwide over the Internet for his devoted fans.

For Nikola Tesla devotees, the event was another sign that the movement to get their hero the recognition he deserves just keep growing.

The monument graces Wardenclyffe, the laboratory in Shoreham designed by famed architect Stanford White where Tesla did most of his work between 1903 and 1915. The 16-acre property was bought in October to become the site of a Tesla museum, thanks to a web campaign started by Cartoonist Matthew Inman, who runs the Internet site The Oatmeal. The initiative, called “Operation Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum,” raised $1.4 million, enough to buy the property and fund much of a planned museum.

Volunteers have also been working hard on the grounds of Wardenclyffe to erase years of neglect and make the place presentable. The two other main labs where Tesla worked, in New York City and Colorado, are long gone, and Wardenclyffle has become the focal point of pro-Tesla sentiment.

Tesla was born and raised in Serbia: The statue is a gift from the Serbian nation and was presented by Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic.

Always a figure of cult renown, Tesla, who died poor and alone in a Manhattan hotel room in 1943, seems to be going more and more mainstream with every passing week.

Many believe the work of Tesla towers over that of his contemporaries, men like Edison and Marconi. While Edison is known as the father of electricity, Tesla pioneered the AC electrical current we actually use today. The use of Edison’s baby, DC current, is dwarfed by that of Tesla’s innovation. Likewise with radio, Tesla is largely credited now with the inventions Marconi has traditionally received acclaim for.

But it was Tesla’s breadth of work and foresight that really astonish. He made significant discoveries in engineering, physics, and sound transmission, and he envisioned crucial pieces of computer technology decades before the computers themselves could be built.

But more than a little of the man’s renown also comes from his personal oddities: a wide variety of obsessive behaviors that included a fear of human hair, fixation with the number three and need to have 18 linen napkins at hand when he ate.

It’s great to see Tesla getting his due after nearly 70 years of mostly being ignored. Rather than waning, momentum seems to be growing to see this project through and make Long Island the home of Tesla adoration.

It couldn’t happen in a better place, or to a more deserving guy.  

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