Elon Musk Makes Donation To Nikola Tesla Museum
July 11, 2014

Elon Musk Makes Donation To Nikola Tesla Museum

Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla must hold a special place in Elon Musk‘s heart. For one thing, Musk named his independent automobile company after Mr. Tesla. Telsa Motors, Inc. gained widespread attention for producing the Telsa Roadster, the first fully electric sports car.

This week, Musk has donated $1 million to the Nikola Tesla Museum, and moreover will put a Tesla Supercharging Station in the museum’s parking lot. This donation came on Thursday, which coincidentally would be Nikola Tesla’s 158th birthday.

By the sounds of it, Musk really does think highly of Telsa — or does he?

None of this would have happened had it not been for Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal series of web comics. Back in May, Inman made a very public plea to Musk to make the museum a reality.

“As some of you may know, I recently published a cartoonist’s review of my Tesla Model S. In the second half of the review, I asked Elon Musk to donate toward the completion of a Nikola Tesla Museum, a project I’ve been working on since 2012,” Inman wrote on his blog. “Within a few hours of posting my review, Elon Musk tweeted that he’d be happy to help. Earlier this week I got to speak to the man directly, and he promised two things.”

Those two things included the $1 million donation and the Tesla Supercharger station.

That sounds like Musk truly stepped up, but as Cnet reported, “Surely a man who can throw millions of dollars at things like a Lotus Esprit from the Bond flick ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ could afford a donation for something as worthwhile as a Tesla Museum.”

The “future” museum will reportedly be located at the East Shoreham, N.Y., Wardenclyffe Tower that served as Tesla’s lab. Inman was able to purchase the location, including the 187-foot transmission tower, by raising money from a crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo. Dubbed the “Let’s Build a Goddamn Telsa Museum,” the campaign surpassed its original goal of $850,000 and reached $1,370,461.

Whether Telsa, who died penniless in 1943, would have approved of the museum isn’t known. But he was one who looked to wealthy benefactors in his efforts to experiment with wireless power transmission. The actual Wardenclyffe Tower was “built thanks to an Elon Musk of the Gilded Era: Financier J. P. Morgan gave more than $150,000 in the later years of the 19th century¬†to build the tower,” reported Marketwatch.

Perhaps a future museum could help Telsa’s notoriety somewhat. While his name has gained some fame thanks to the fact that he clearly has fans in people like Musk, the truth is that apart from scientists, he’s largely forgotten today. While most people — certainly most Americans — know of Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb — it was Telsa who contributed greatly to the alternating current that George Westinghouse successfully developed as a way to distribute electricity efficiently over long distances.

Edison had been a supporter of the competing direct current, yet is still remembered somewhat the father of electricity. There are already several historical sites devoted to Edison, including the Edison Historical Park in West Orange, New Jersey; the Thomas Edison Depot Museum in Port Huron, Michigan; and of course the Thomas Edison Park in Menlo Park, New Jersey.

So, perhaps it is overdue that Telsa gets his own museum.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer and has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and the fitness sports industry for more than 15 years. In that time his work has appeared in more than three dozen publications including Newsweek, PC Magazine and Wired. His work has also appeared on Forbes.com, Inc.com, Cnet.com, and Fortune.com. Peter is a regular writer for redOrbit.com.

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