Nikola Tesla has his own New York City street corner. This particular memorial is perhaps a bit ironic, since the now-legendary scientist practically lived on the streets during the last ten years of his life.
Having played second fiddle to Edison during much of his nearly-60 years in the United States, Yugoslavia-born Tesla died debt-ridden and obscure in the New Yorker Hotel. Before his death, he spent much of his time feeding pigeons in Bryant Park, which sits on the same street where his street marker commemoration now hangs.
Still, Tesla’s unfortunate final years in the Big Apple are obfuscated in favor of a poker-faced street sign. The city dubbed the corner of 40th and the Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue) Nikola Tesla Corner in 1994.
Unusually, rather than choosing to highlight one of Tesla’s places of significant discovery, New York City instead seemed to memorialize Tesla’s legendary love for pigeons with its choice of place. Bryant Park, between the Public Library and Sixth Avenue, was where Tesla famously fed thousands of pigeons and cared for many.
Perhaps mixing a bit of truth and bit of mad-scientist lore, Tesla allegedly loved an all-white pigeon romantically. As the story goes, the bird flew to tell him she was dying with a bright light in her eyes. After the bird died in 1922, Tesla knew that his life’s work was finished. Regarding this beautiful bird, Tesla supposedly said, “I loved that pigeon as a man loves a women, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.”
In picking such a sentimental and highly-unscientific place to honor Tesla, one can’t help but wonder, where’s the birdseed?