It’s no shock that the legacy of Nikola Tesla, the man responsible for alternating current electricity, resonates so profoundly in Shoreham, given it’s where the Serbian-American inventor’s last remaining laboratory sits.
So in honor of his 161st birthday, more than 600 residents of all ages and from all over the map journeyed to the historic Shoreham site, the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, for a supercharged celebration of the prolific pioneer.
Under sunny skies Saturday, July 8, the center kicked off its Electric Dream Expo, an all-afternoon event for all things Tesla-inspired.
From interactive exhibits of 3-D printers, high school robotics and old ham radios to demonstrations of the Tesla coil and Tesla-oriented augmented reality, to science-based activities for kids, the event carried a theme of technological innovation of the past, present and future.
“We’re just so thrilled to see so many people are interested and incredibly humbled knowing what Tesla represents to people.”
— Jane Alcorn
Vibrant Tesla cars were also on display throughout the grounds with raffles for 24-hour test drives available to the public. A Tesla impersonator, in full Victorian-era garb, walked around the premises and was photographed with attendees.
The grand event was even broadcast live to more than 50,000 people on Facebook with the help of a hovering drone.
While the center has held birthday celebrations for Tesla in the past, this one was the biggest yet and was also in acknowledgement of the 100th anniversary of the dismantling of his legendary and ahead-of-its-time wireless transmitting tower, which sat on the Shoreham property before being torn down July 4, 1917.
“It seemed important that we do something with a little more bang,” Jane Alcorn, Tesla Science Center board president said of this year’s event, the funds from which would go toward the development of the long-awaited Tesla museum and science center in the laboratory. “It’s exhilarating and humbling. We’re just so thrilled to see so many people are interested, and incredibly humbled knowing what Tesla represents to people.”
Dozens of vendors, including Brookhaven National Lab, North Shore Public Library, Museum of Interesting Things, Custer Institute & Observatory and Long Island Radio & TV Historical Society, set up at tables as people wearing Tesla shirts and pins browsed and bonded over their shared interest in the man who paved the way for several modern gadgets like cellphones. TVs and radios.
“He’s the father of just about everything we use … the hero of modern science,” Manorville resident and longtime Tesla researcher Axel Wicks said.
“He’s the father of just about everything we use … the hero of modern science.”
— Axel Wicks
Rachel Zyats, of Rocky Point, said she was excited that Tesla was finally getting the credit he deserved, as somebody who was greatly overshadowed by rival Thomas Edison
“Tesla was the real inventor,” Zyats said. “I think it’s great that more people are starting to learn about [him].”
Lynbrook mother Leeanne Chiulli and her 11-year-old daughter Kate, wearing a T-shirt with the slogan, “Never underestimate a woman who loves Nikola Tesla,” said the creator is their idol. James Angell, a retired engineer from Commack, pointed to Tesla as a hero in the field of science.
“Tesla is one of the greatest geniuses in the last 100 years in engineering and electrical theory,” Angell said, noting his early development of quantum mechanics. “One hundred years before anyone started talking about it today, Tesla was talking about it. [He] had a concept years and years before anyone thought of it. [So] it’s very encouraging to see so many people who now have an interest in Tesla and his inventions.”
Standing at one of the booths was Joseph Sikorski, a Babylon-based filmmaker who made a documentary entitled “Tower to the People” about the history of Wardenclyffe and Tesla’s accomplishments there.
“Tesla is a great unifier and it’s awesome to see him opening a lot of doors for people of all types,” he said.
Several speakers took to the podium in front of the historic brick building where Tesla built his laboratory in 1901 with the help of renowned architect Stanford White.
“[He] had a concept years and years before anyone thought of it. [So] it’s very encouraging to see so many people who now have an interest in Tesla and his inventions.”
— James Angell
William Terbo, Tesla’s grandnephew, was also in attendance, recounting memories of his great-uncle.
With Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) alongside, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) presented Alcorn and Marc Alessi, executive director, with a proclamation for their work in keeping Tesla’s legacy alive. “Long live Tesla, long live ideas, long live science,” Romaine said.
At the end of the ceremony, young Kyle Driebeek, of Connecticut, performed “America the Beautiful” and “Happy Birthday” on the theremin, a Russian electronic instrument played without physical contact. Tesla-decorated birthday cake was also served.
Rock Brynner, professor, author and son of famous actor Yul, read Tesla-related excerpts from his book about the New York Power Authority’s origins and expressed his joy in seeing so many people in attendance.
“I expected to see maybe three kids and a sullen nanny, and instead there’s this enormously enthusiastic crowd … it’s wonderful,” Brynner said. “In the 1930s, a journalist asked Albert Einstein what it was like to be the most brilliant genius in the world and Einstein replied, ‘I don’t know, you’ll have to ask Nikola Tesla.’ I urge all of you to learn more about Tesla. His story is enthralling and tragic, beautiful and terribly moving.”