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Web comic the Oatmeal helps with funding for Nikola Tesla Museum

August 21, 2012|By Chris Barton
  • An image of Nikola Tesla in his laboratory in 1899.
An image of Nikola Tesla in his laboratory in 1899. (Random Housee )

Maybe most recognizable for sharp, crudely drawn comics explaining dog behavior or the music industry, Web comic strip the Oatmeal has moved into the fundraising arena with a recent campaign in support of a Nikola Tesla museum in Shoreham, N.Y.

The comic's creator Matthew Inman called Tesla, the Serbian American inventor of alternating current,  "the greatest geek who ever lived" in a recent strip (which, be forewarned, features the slightest bit of colorful language), and last week Inman took his interest to the next level with a campaign called, "Let's build a ... museum."

Using the online fundraising site Indiegogo, Inman is helping the Tesla Science Center raise $850,000, which New York State will match so that the nonprofit organization may purchase Tesla's Wardenclyffe laboratory for $1.7 million. Warning that another offer was already on the table to turn the land into a retail store, Inman wrote, "Internet, this is where you come in."

The Internet thus far has come through. The Indiegogo campaign earned $500,000 in just two days and more than $750,000 as of this writing.

So far the funding effort has come from more than 18,000 individual donors, and although the goal appears within reach, Inman cautioned that a lot more funding would be required to build a museum as well as purchase the land.

The cartoonist playfully solicited corporate sponsorship for the effort , which promised GE that the Internet "will love you forever" and that Tesla Motors would hereby be "permitted to do donuts in the Wardenclyffe parking lot" if it  came forward with funding.

The Wardenclyffe lab was designed by New York architect Stanford White and formerly hosted a tower that Tesla built in the hopes of providing wireless energy. Tesla eventually lost funding, and the tower was destroyed in 1917. The property was eventually sold to a photo processing company. Deeply in debt, Tesla died while living in a hotel room in 1943.

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