Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ending the Tesla dream.

Not the car, the man, Nikola Tesla.

The massive lab and tower he built at the turn of the century to try and invent wireless electricity and radio seems doomed to be cleared away.


...Tesla sparked the tower up only one time in 1903, shooting enormous bolts of electricity into the air. Then he sold it off along with its environs, called Wardenclyffe, to pay his debts.

Eventually parts of the tower were demolished and used for scrap, but a hulking chunk of it remains, along with the lab and possible tunnels beneath. Some of Tesla's massive, bizarre equipment is still in the buildings, and the purpose of some unimaginably huge batteries there remains a mystery.

Unfortunately, as the New York Times reports this week, the Wardenclyffe property is up for sale by its current owner Agfa. The company spent millions cleaning up toxins on the site, and with the economic downturn can no longer afford to keep it. They promise potential buyers that they'll deliver the property "cleared," meaning they'll destroy what's left of Tesla's research facility. There will be no chance for anyone to study its remains, to see if the man really had invented wireless electricity a century ago.

This would be a tremendous loss for science history. Luckily several groups are lobbying to turn the area into a museum for Tesla. You can find out about their efforts in the NYT article here. Let's hope the push for a museum succeeds.

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