This post has been updated.
In case you haven’t heard, there’s a fundraiser in progress and it’s for “the greatest geek who ever lived.”
That’s if you ask Matthew Inman, best known as the creator of The Oatmeal, a popular comics and quizzes Web site. Inman, a long-time Tesla enthusiast (and equally harsh critic of Thomas Edison), launched a fundraiser on the crowdfunding Web site Indiegogo to permanently protect Wardenclyffe, the site of Tesla’s final laboratory in New York, as a historic site.
The fundraiser, called “Operation Let’s Build a [expletive] Tesla Museum,” was launched to raise half of the $1.7 million needed for the nonprofit Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe to buy the land on which Tesla’s old laboratory sits. The Afga Corp. owns the 16 acres and, according to the nonprofit, had another offer from a buyer that planned to demolish what was left of the laboratory and build a commercial retail space.
Inman wasn’t having it.
To gain access to a matching-grant from the state of New York for $850,000, the nonprofit had to show it had on hand the other half of the $1.7 million needed. So, with six weeks left to raise the necessary cash, Inman launched the fundraiser on Indiegogo, accompanying it with one of his signature comics outlining the reason for the fundraiser and the stakes. In it, he called out General Electric, which Edison founded, Google, J.P. Morgan, Tesla Motors and even Christian Bale (best known for his portrayal of Batman, whom Inman insists would “totally sponsor the [expletive] out of this museum”), appealing for funds.
On Tuesday, a $33,333 donation came in, pushing the total raised past the $850,000 goal. The donation came after a list of incentives Inman provided to spur more contributions. Among the perks, a photo of Nikola Tesla ($25), a “Tesla > Edison” bumper sticker ($33), a T-shirt and bumper sticker package ($50), and on and on until the $33,333 donation bracket, which would give the donor access to a piece about them, their company or their product on The Oatmeal, which, according to Inman, averages 7 million unique visitors. After the fundraiser reached its goal, Inman tweeted:
Wow, someone just donated $33,000 at the last minute and put us over our goal!$873,169 REACHED!— Matthew Inman (@Oatmeal) August 21, 2012
The sizable donation came via independent filmmaker Joseph Sikorski, the Verge’s Sam Byford reports. The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe confirmed on its Facebook page that the donation came on behalf of the production team Colossal Molehill Productions. Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk has also pledged to support the project, according to Jalopnik.
As of the writing of this post, the effort has raised $931,025, blowing past the $850,000 goal.
According to The Oatmeal comic, Inman plans to host a picnic on the site in July 2013 in celebration of the successful acquisition of the land where, ultimately, the first U.S.-based Tesla Museum could very well be located, since the money raised only covers the land.
Update 8/23 9:24 a.m.: Inman responded to a couple of questions via e-mail early Thursday morning in reaction to the fundraising haul.
“It’s pretty damned awesome to see people, including myself, get this excited over an inventor who has been dead for nearly 70 years,” wrote Inman. “Furthermore, being able to have an impact on the legacy of someone whom I consider a hero is awesome as well, and doubtfully an opportunity I’ll ever see again. It’d be like if you’re a huge fan of Abraham Lincoln and you got to take part in a crowdfunding campaign that kept someone from bulldozing his log cabin and turning it into a Krispy Kreme. Operation Make Lincoln Not Doughnuts would be huge, I think.”
As for whether there are plans to celebrate priori to a picnic in 2013, Inman wrote, “Someone is shipping me a fully functional Tesla coil gun as their way of saying thanks for my efforts to save Wardenclyffe. I’d love to try and BBQ something with it.”
Then, of course, there was the question of Inman’s favorite Tesla invention. “Probably his miniaturized ‘earthquake machine.‘ It was a small device that generated a resonance of several buildings around him and eventually he had to smash it with a sledgehammer to keep it leveling an entire city block. It had no practical use, really, but it’s still my favorite.”
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