A love of science and invention has brought together two small startups from across the country.
Dorrian Porter learned of Nikola Tesla eight years ago, and said he was surprised by how under-recognized the inventor was. Porter, the creator of Northern Imagination — a California holding company formed in 2013 to support creative ideas, entrepreneurs and companies — had some interest in the Kickstarter platform, and decided to use it to educate others on the founder of alternating currents.
“Elementary school children should know about him just as they learn about [Thomas] Edison or [Alexander Graham] Bell,” he said. “Along with others in his time, Nikola Tesla worked on a range of theories and inventions that helped form the basis of our world today, including computers, x-rays, wireless communications and solar. Most people don’t realize that the transfer of power across any kind of distance over wires via alternating current is the direct work of Nikola Tesla.”
While he prepared for the project, he paid a visit to the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, where he met board president Jane Alcorn.
“Dorrian Porter heard what we were doing here and came to volunteer some time and visit us one weekend,” Alcorn said. “He was inspired by what we were doing.”
And he was motivated by how the organization was able to raise more than $1 million to purchase the property.
“He’s a Tesla fan and thought it was fascinating what we were able to do,” she said. “He wanted to be helpful, like many other people across the world.”
So in 2013, Porter raised $127,000 to build a statue of Tesla in Silicon Valley in California. The campaign lasted just 30 days, and was supported by more than 700 backers, with Alcorn being one of them. The figure was sculpted by Terry Guyer, and works as a free wifi spot, while also housing a time capsule scheduled to be opened January 7, 2043. The landlord of the property where the statue now stands, Harold Hohbach, agreed to put the statue there. Hohbach began his career in the 1940s as an electrical engineer at Westinghouse, a company that was a major beneficiary and benefactor of Tesla, according to Porter.
A gift for donating was a replica of the statue, showing Tesla holding a large light bulb.
“He could [generate] power wirelessly in 1895 — so we put the magnet in the mini-replica inside the light as a random idea that we thought would be nifty, and since magnetism and electricity go together, it seemed to fit,” Porter said. “It’s hard to imagine the last 100 years without power being transported from Niagara Falls, and every other power generating plant now, to other parts of the country.”
The company held a few hundred in stock for the last few years, selling them closer to the original price of $90, which was used to raise the funds for the project. To sell the rest of the line, he lowered the price, and decided he wanted to give back in support of Tesla, by donating $3 of each sale to the science center in Shoreham.
Porter said Northern Imagination anticipates donating around $2,000.
“I am an enthusiastic supporter for seeing a permanent place of recognition established for Nikola Tesla,” he said. “By showcasing the wide range of areas Tesla worked on 100 years ago, the center will without question spark the imagination of a young girl or boy, and take our world forward the next 100 years. I hope the Tesla Science Center can be a place of recognition for Tesla and his inventions, a gathering place for people and a spot for children to learn and experiment.”
Alcorn said no matter what the science center receives, she is happy to have Northern Imagination be a part of the science center’s network. She said she also received a matching time capsule that will be placed on the grounds.
“We’re pleased that people think of us and consider us in any kind of giving,” she said. “Whether it’s their time or money or skills or connections, all of that is helpful and it’s welcomed. We appreciate it.”