Nikola Tesla's lab could speak to future generations

October 01, 2014 // By Steve Taranovich

Nikola Tesla was a scientist who brought us the basics of wireless power transfer, AC power, the AC motor, the polyphase system, radio circuits and radio control, frequency inductive heating, gaseous/fluorescent lighting, and electric clocks, to name a few of his innovations.

I lived only a few miles from Tesla's Wardenclyffe laboratory in Shoreham on Long Island, N.Y., for most of my life, and I have been to the historic site there where Tesla purchased 200 acres of a former potato farm in 1901 from James Warden. Tesla’s only remaining laboratory building still stands there today. His initial goal was to establish a wireless telegraphy plant. The lab and 187-foot-high transmitter tower (with 120 feet below the ground) were constructed and financed by J.P. Morgan.

The Wardenclyffe Lab and Tower in 1917. Source: Tesla Science Center.

The site was in ruins and vandalized when I visited it just before recent efforts managed to save this bit of important history. It was heartbreaking for any scientist or engineer to see such an important piece of engineering history potentially lost forever.

In 2012 an Indiegogo campaign to save Nikola Tesla’s former laboratory was led by cartoonist Matthew Inman from Oatmeal and Jane Alcorn, president of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe . They were successful. The campaign needed $850,000, and $1.37 million was raised along with a combined grant from New York State for an additional $850,000. A bid was made on the property, and the lab was snatched from a developer who was going to demolish the site to make way for residential properties.

On September 23, 2013, a statue of Nikola Tesla was erected on the Wardenclyffe grounds and dedicated by Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic.

A statue in honor of Nikola Tesla was erected at the site of the original Tower base. Source: Tesla Science Center.

Now efforts to build a museum are underway. Inman wrote a cartoon review of