In May, the web site TheOatmeal.com published a cartoon reviewing the Tesla Model S. In the second half of the review, the cartoonist, Matthew Inman, pointed out that while Tesla Motors was perfectly free to use inventor Nikola Tesla’s name without any family connection, it might be nice to show the company’s respect for Tesla the man by donating to an effort to build a Tesla museum in Shoreham, N.Y., at the site of Nikola Tesla’s laboratory. At the time, Tesla CEO Elon Musk had already contributed $2500 to the successful Indiegogo campaign to buy the property. Inman asked for more—$8 million more—to build a museum on the property. Musk quickly tweeted, “I would be happy to help.”
Yesterday, on the 158th anniversary of Nikola Tesla’s birth, Inman reported that Musk followed up that tweet with a phone call, and filled in the details of what he’d provide—namely, $1 million and a Tesla charging station on site. That won’t completely fund the museum-building effort, but it certainly will give it a big jump start. And I’m sure it’s a lot more than Inman expected when he issued the challenge.
It was a very happy birthday for Tesla fans.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.