Friday, May 15, 2009

The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization in New York State working to establish a science and technology center and museum at Wardenclyffe, the last extant lab used by Nikola Tesla. The land is currently for sale.

In 1901, Tesla purchased 200 acres on Long Island's north shore from James Warden. These 200 acres were part of an 1,800 acre potato farm along what is today Route 25A in Shoreham, NY. The site became known as Wardenclyffe, after the former owner. Here, Tesla established what would become his only remaining laboratory building.

Tesla is a pretty compelling figure. It would be a shame for his last remaining lab to disappear. In addition to his many scientific achievements, Tesla has made quite an impression in popular culture. Perhaps it was his eccentric personality, his grand vision of where science was going (which many thought was outlandish, but some of which has or will soon come to pass), his path-crossing with Edison, his FBI file... whatever the reason, he's one of those people that need only be referred to by a single name. Seriously, hands up if you knew a) Tesla wasn't his first name and b) if you knew Nikola was, and c) how to spell Nikola without looking it up. I got 2/3, so there.

Some popular culture incarnations of Tesla:

David Bowie as Nikola Tesla in the 2006 film, The Prestige. With Hugh Jackman. Bowie as Tesla = pretty amazing. The rest of the film was pretty good, too.

The first film Superman cartoon short, released in 1941, has Superman fighting a Mad Scientist who, with his death ray (which Tesla was working on) is set on destroying those who laughed at him. AC current makes a cameo appearance when the Mad Scientist turns up the juice! According to Wiki, the scientist is referred to as Tesla. I didn't catch the reference when I watched it, and it's not in the transcription, either. But, it sure does appear to be a caricature of Tesla, 2 years before he died, even.

He appears in a popular cartoon by Kate Beaton, who is rocking the world with her history cartoons. She can draw, she's articulate, and damn funny, too.

I'm sure there is something in all of this about preservation, public history, history of science, what's important, mass media, the relevance of history, why place is important, etc., but I am not articulating it particularly well. Still, there it is.

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