Valuable plaque stolen from Tesla laboratory
Anonymous benefactor offers $2,000 reward if it's returned to property
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Though it is many years since his death in 1943, enthusiasts of his scientific research are hoping yet another mystery he is associated with will soon be solved.
A brass plaque that was dedicated to the scientist and placed outside his old laboratory was removed around Halloween and has not been recovered, according to sources. At the site, Mr. Tesla studied wireless telecommunications and conducted research on his infamous particle beam weapon -- later dubbed the "death ray" -- which could direct energy toward one object.
The tower never became fully operational due to lack of funding, but in 1976 the Yugoslavian government donated the plaque to mark both the 120th anniversary of the scientist's birth in Croatia and the Bicentenniel of his adopted country. The plaque featured the likeness of Mr. Tesla on the upper right-hand corner and a depiction of the original antenna tower, which was destroyed in 1917, on the opposite side.
The plaque had stood bolted to the north wall of Mr. Tesla's old laboratory for over 30 years until recently.
Members of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, a community group that has been rallying to have officials from Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town preserve the property and turn it into a museum and learning center for the public, announced this week that an anonymous benefactor has come forward and offered $2,000 for the return of the plaque.
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"I think it is wonderful that this person is willing to see what belongs on the building restored," Ms. Alcorn said. "It's a shame that people feel they can do those kind of things with impunity."
Ms. Alcorn said members of the group would love to see the plaque returned sooner rather than later.
"I hope [the culprit] will see better and return it," Ms. Alcorn said.
It remains a mystery exactly how the plaque was removed. According to David Madigan, a board member of the group, a lock on a gate in the fence that surrounds the property was cut and there is some speculation that a truck or van was used to transport the plaque, which he said is very heavy, off the 16-acre property. There is also some speculation that the plaque might have been stolen so that it could be melted down and used as scrap metal -- a trend with the downturn of the economy.
"We'd like it back because it was printed by the Yugoslavian government and it's part of the history of the building," Mr. Madigan said.
Suffolk County Police could not find any record of the incident when contacted for information this week.
Suffolk Legis. Daniel Losquadro (R-Shoreham), who has been working with the community on getting the property preserved, said he was disappointed about the theft. Mr. Losquadro, who recently took a tour of the property with the county planning department as part of the appraisal process, said the theft raised larger issues about security there.
Mr. Losquadro noted that scrap metal collectors usually report items of significance to law enforcement in an effort to make sure they are not stolen, but that nothing involving the plaque has been reported.
"We can just hope that is the reason that it was taken and that they bring it to someone reputable who will notify law enforcement," Mr. Losquadro said. "I would be happier if the person was just caught by law enforcement and punished."
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