Nikola Tesla, who developed practical AC electricity, has long been neglected as an inventor, but America's geeks are changing that. Crowd-sourced fundraising efforts are now under way to raise money for a Tesla museum on the site of his last laboratory on Long Island, and to make a TV drama-documentary about his life and work. A more ambitious effort involves making a biopic, or "true life mystery thriller," where saving the Wardenclyffe site would be part of the film's budget.
Two of the geeks leading the charge are Elon Musk and Matthew Inman. Musk, a co-founder of PayPal, also started Tesla Motors, which produced the first successful electric production car this century. That has helped raise Tesla's profile over the past decade, particularly in Silicon Valley. Inman, the cartoonist who runs The Oatmeal, is a Tesla fan who is helping to raise money for the non-profit group behind the prospective Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe.
On 21 August, Inman used his Oatmeal site to launch a campaign at IndieGoGo to raise $850,000 to buy Tesla's Wardenclyffe lab from Agfa, with the state of New York offering matching funds up to that amount. The goal was met in the first week and the total has now gone over $1 million.
Wil Cashen is trying to crowd-fund a drama-documentary, Electricity: The Life Story of Nikola Tesla, via Kickstarter. He has asked for $35,000, but only has about $13,000 with 11 days to go.
Meanwhile Joseph Sikorski is trying to raise the money to shoot a Hollywood-style movie (but cheaper) with a professional cast and crew (PDF). Fragments From Olympus: The Vision of Nikola Tesla is based on his award-winning script, written with Michael Calomino. The plot involves two special agents trying to find out if Tesla had perfected a "death ray" before his death. In this case, a private group would rescue Wardenclyffe and set up the educational Tesla Museum of Science.
Tesla has appeared in at least one film before: The Prestige (2006), based on Christopher Priest's novel about rival magicians in Victorian London. One of them goes to see Tesla in Colorado Springs and asks him to construct a teleportation machine (which is one thing he didn't actually try to invent). David Bowie played Tesla, giving what Priest described as a "wooden performance".
There is already a Tesla Museum in Belgrade. Sava Kosanovic, Tesla's nephew and heir, moved all Tesla's belongings there in the 1950s, along with his ashes. The museum has more than 160,000 original documents, more than 1,500 photographs of "technical objects, instruments and apparatus", and more than 1,000 plans and drawings.