He was one of the most productive inventors in American history, demonstrating short-range wireless communications systems through radio and contributing to the development of alternating current.
But how many people can actually say they know who Nikola Tesla was? Perhaps not many, and that, say those who have studied Tesla and his work, say is because he did little in his lifetime to commercialize his work.
But these days, on Long Island, Tesla, who died in 1943 at the age of 86, is being remembered by a group trying to raise funds to purchase the land in Shoreham where the eccentric inventor once did much of his work.
Tesla's laboratory called Wardenclyffe, is now owned by the AGFA Group, a multi-national technology company headquartered in Belgium. AGFA, which also has offices in New Jersey, is looking to sell the property for about $1.6 million.
A few years ago, real-estate broker David Madigan, whose ancestors were among the earliest of Long Island settlers, and Jane Alcorn, a retired teacher, began working to raise money. Alcorn is now president of a newly-formed non-profit, the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe.
So far, the organization is doing well. It has received from the State of New York an $850,000 reimbursement grant. Through a find-raising site, Indiegogo.com, the Tesla organizers have raised $1,230,904, as of Wednesday morning, Sept. 12.
Although Tesla's giant tower has long since been demolished, the Long Island non-profit wants to purchase, the 15.69-acre property and Tesla's laboratory. They hope to establish a museum on the site exhibiting Tesla's work.
The cost of renovations, establishing a museum, landscaping and other work is estimated by Alcorn at about $10 million. But the ability to buy the property would, Alcorn and Madigan said, at least secure a future for a full Tesla museum.
"I grew up in Shoreham," said Madigan. "I knew people who knew Tesla when Tesla was alive." In fact, Madigan said, his boyhood home was only three houses away from one once occupied by Tesla, who was born in 1856 in the village of Smiljan, now Croatia. He came to New York in 1884.
Two years before that, he went to work for the Continental Edison Co. of France. When he arrived in New York, he was hired by Thomas Edison. The story goes that in 1885, Tesla claimed he could improve upon Edison's inefficient motors and generators. If he could, Edison was said to have offered Tesla $50,000. Tesla completed the work, coming up with more efficient equipment. Edison, the story goes, claimed he was only joking about the money. Tesla quit in anger and started his own company, Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing.
He would go on to invent electrical arc light-based illumination systems and dynamo electric machine commutates as well as alternating current transmission systems.
He has been called by some the Father of the Electric Age.
Towards the end of his life, Tesla holed himself up at the New Yorker Hotel, seeing practically no one. He never married and had no children. Why was he not better known?
"My belief is that he was so involved with his work and spent little time commercializing it," Alcorn said.
Those who want to contribute may do so through Indiegogo.com/teslamuseum/; www.teslasciencecenter.org, or send a check to P.O. Box 552, Shoreham, NY, 11786.