Support for Tesla stretches to a US museum and two movies

Support for Tesla stretches to a US museum and two movies

Summary: Nikola Tesla has been neglected as an inventor, but The Oatmeal has helped raise more than $1 million to set up a Tesla museum in New York, and there are plans for two movies about his life.

TOPICS: After Hours
Nikola Tesla (1856-1943)
Nikola Tesla (1856-1943)

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.

Tesla in Colorado Springs in 1899-1900
Publicity photo of Nikola Tesla with his Magnifying Transmitter in Colorado Springs. Source: Wikipedia

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.

Topic: After Hours

Jack Schofield

About Jack Schofield

Jack Schofield spent the 1970s editing photography magazines before becoming editor of an early UK computer magazine, Practical Computing. In 1983, he started writing a weekly computer column for the Guardian, and joined the staff to launch the newspaper's weekly computer supplement in 1985. This section launched the Guardian’s first website and, in 2001, its first real blog. When the printed section was dropped after 25 years and a couple of reincarnations, he felt it was a time for a change....

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  • !!
  • About Time

    It's about time he received proper recognition!
  • Support for Tesla stretches to a US museum and two movies

    I agree with 'Its about time...'. Does anyone know why it took so long to recognize genius Nikola Tesla, i.e. in the country where he did most of his electrifying work? Could it be because Tesla (AC) was an immigrant, and Thomas Edison (DC) was born in USA, thus Edison is given credit for something (AC) he fought against?
  • The TV drama-documentary has nothing to do with it!

    The TV drama-documentary has NOTHING to do with the campaign to build a Tesla Museum. That is completely independent. In fact, mentioning them actually hurts the Tesla Museum because it diverts funds away from people who might have contributed to create a Science Center. This article should have focused solely on Matt Inman (the Oatmeal) and the Tesla Science Center who are trying to raise funds to build a museum.
    • This is about Supporting Tesla ... not picking sides

      @binaryloop both the museum and documentary have an ultimate goal of giving tesla the glory he deserved... the museum has obviously not been hurt in any way they have raised excess of 2 million dollars with indiegogo, mailed in donations , and the grant from new york...
      • Museum > TV

        Building a science museum is a lot more important than producing a TV show. First of all the grants from NY are reimbursements. Once they spend the money they get reimbursed. Second, they are only at 1,188,000 on the Indiegogo campaign. It is going to take another $10 million to build a museum. My opinion hasn't changed. The museum started doing a successful fund raiser and all these other Tesla-related projects crawled out of the woodwork and glommed on to the museum to get some extra attention. If it weren't for these other side projects siphoning off money the museum would probably be at $3-4 million already.