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How a cartoonist raised $1 million (and counting) for a Tesla museum

Matthew Inman, a cartoonist who runs theoatmeal.com, posted a tribute titled "Why Nicola Tesla is the Greatest Geek Who Ever Lived.'

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A commemorative plaque affixed to a Shoreham, N.Y. building that was once the laboratory of physicist/inventor Nicola Tesla. In little more than a week, donors from more than 100 countries have kicked in about $1 million through a social media website to pay for the restoration of the 110-year-old laboratory.

(AP Photo/Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe)

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A jolt of support from a popular Web cartoonist has re-energized a decades-long effort to restore a decrepit, 110-year-old laboratory once used by Nikola Tesla, a visionary scientist who was a rival of Thomas Edison and imagined a world of free electricity.

In little more than a week, tens of thousands of donors from more than 100 countries have kicked in more than $1 million through a social media fundraising website to pay for the restoration of Tesla's Wardenclyffe laboratory, located about 65 miles (105 kilometers) east of New York City. A small band of followers who have struggled to establish a science and research museum and learning center in Tesla's honor are giddy with delight about the lightning-quick response they have received.

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"Enormously, overwhelmingly, astounding," is how Jane Alcorn, president of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe and a retired school librarian, described her feelings about the project's newfound fortune. The not-for-profit formed about 17 years ago had managed to secure a state matching grant of $850,000 but had amassed only about $50,000 for the project. Its goal at times seemed insurmountable.

Then this summer Alcorn learned that Matthew Inman, a cartoonist who runs theoatmeal.com, posted a tribute to the scientist titled "Why Nicola Tesla is the Greatest Geek Who Ever Lived." Supporters of the Long Island effort reached out to Inman, a 27-year-old who lives in Seattle, and he and Alcorn began speaking.

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