Matthew Inman, better known as the creator of the online cartoon, “The Oatmeal“, may quite possibly have pulled off the greatest feat of crowdsourcing in recent memory. After hearing that Nikola Tesla’s derelict old Wardenclyffe laboratory in New York was in danger of of being sold or knocked down, the cartoonist made a plea to the internet community to raise funds to purchase the $1.6 million parcel. Within the first 6 hours, The Oatmeal had raised a quarter of a million dollars, and the figure is steadily rising.
For those who have never heard of the brilliant Nikola Tesla, we refer you to the Oatmeal’s informative cartoon, “Why Nikola Tesla was the greatest geek who ever lived” for a little background. Tesla’s Wardenclyffe lab, built for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 to generate electricity from Niagra Falls, has been in a state of disrepair for decades with windows boarded, surrounded by barbed wire, weeds, and signs that warn trespassers (usually Tesla fanatics) to stay out.
Jane Alcorn, the president of the non-profit The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, made a request through their Facebook page earlier this month calling for donations in hopes of turning the old brick building into a museum. Several people sent Inman links to her request, and the cartoonist illustrated a humorous petition of his own and posted it on his website. In less than a week, the Tesla Science Center reached its goal of $850,000 thanks to over 200,000 contributors from all over the world. The funds were enough to receive a matching grant from the state of New York to meet the seller’s asking price for the land.
By harnessing the power of his fellow geeks, Inman and Alcorn were able to raise sufficient money to buy Wardenclyffe as well as garner the support and the pro bono services of architects and other industry professionals. The Tesla Science Center hopes to make an offer for the lab within the near future, with plans to rehab the building in honor of the inventor and reconstruct the building’s iconic 180-foot tower. “It’s clear from this crowdsourcing effort that there are a lot of people that are very serious about Tesla, and we hope his name becomes much more widely known in the years to come,” said Mary Daum, the Center’s treasurer. Donations can still be made through the organization’s website.
Lead photo from Wikipedia