Elon Musk Just Gave Nikola Tesla a Generous 158th Birthday Present

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
July 11 2014 11:45 AM

Elon Musk Is Donating $1 Million for a Nikola Tesla Museum

Elon Musk donation Nikola Tesla museum
There's crowdfunding, and then there's Muskfunding.

Image via Indiegogo

On Thursday, a celebration of Nikola Tesla's birthday was enlivened by an announcement: Elon Musk, CEO of the electric-car company that bears Tesla's name, will donate $1 milion to help build a museum honoring the late inventor.

The gift came after Matthew Inman, creator of the webcomic The Oatmeal, implored Musk to contribute to the grassroots effort to build a Nikola Tesla museum on the site of his former laboratory on Long Island. An Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign called "Let's Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum" had already raised some $1.3 million to preserve the property, but Inman and his collaborators soon realized it wasn't nearly enough to build a whole museum.

"You owe us nothing, and you've done nothing but good things in the name of Nikola Tesla," he wrote in a May open letter to Musk. "But the fact remains: Tesla Motors, a company now worth billions, is using Nikola Tesla's name and they're using his technology, and all we want in return is a little bit of help."

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Musk promptly responded to Inman on Twitter, saying, "I would be happy to help." He didn't say at the time how much he would contribute, though. 

Inman had estimated the museum would cost $8 million. Musk apparently wasn't willing to bankroll the whole thing on his own, but his gift should certainly kickstart the fundraising effort. He also pledged to build a Tesla Supercharger station on the site.

Inman responded to Musk's pledge with gratitude on his blog Thursday. He wrote:

Elon Musk: from the deepest wells of my geeky little heart: thank you. This is amazing news.

Previously in Slate:

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

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