Richard B. Fuller Jr. “Bucky” 1895-1983
Design Scientist Inventor / Comprehensive Polymath Thinker
American inventor, machinist, mechanic, laborer, WW1 Navy soldier, industrial manager, scientist, engineer, architect, designer, author, teacher, professor, and genius
Tensegrity, Geodesic domes, Spaceship Earth, Ephemeralization, Synergy, Alternative, Vehicles, Fullerenes, Bucky balls, Tetrahedral Molecular Geometry, Drop City
“I was brought up under an incredible amount of misinformation” – B.F.
Bucky was born in Milton Massachusetts in 1895. He was the grandson of a Unitarian minister (Arthur Buckminster Fuller), and the grandnephew of American Transcendentalist (Margaret Fuller). Like Frank Lloyd Wright, Bucky had a Froebel Preschool-Kindergarten education. As a child, Bucky spent many years on the coast of Maine. He had trouble with abstract geometry at first, oddly, but he already loved inventing tools and contraptions. He became a certified machinist, attended Milton Academy, and later studied at Harvard. He was expelled twice from Harvard; once for partying with a vaudeville troupe, and then for “irresponsibility and lack of interest”.
Bucky realized he was a non-conformist misfit that did not fit the habitation of Harvard Fraternity life. Years later he did eventually get a Science Degree from Bates College in Maine. He worked for the meat-packing industry, and served during WW1 in the Navy. He married Anne Hewlett in 1917. In 1920 Bucky and Anne’s father developed the “Stockade Building System” Company to produce portable, sanitary, weatherproof, fireproof, affordable housing.
His SBS Company did not even make it to the Great Depression. Bucky was bankrupt and unemployed by 1922. While living at public low-income housing in Chicago, Illinois, his 2-year-old daughter Alexandra died from polio and spinal meningitis complications. Allegedly, he felt responsible and this caused him to drink frequently and to contemplate suicide for a while. He finally chose to embark on “an experiment, to find what a single individual [could] contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.”
By 1928 Bucky created a social relationship with a café in Greenwich Village where he could informally lecture, exhibit, and get meals in exchange for interior decorating. It was there he met Isamu Noguchi in 1929. They worked on the Dymaxion Car and began their lifelong friendship and partnership.
In the 1930’s Bucky developed the Dymaxion Car and the Dymaxion House. During WW2 he was head mechanical engineer of the US Board of Economic Warfare.
In the 1940’s Buckminster lectured at Bennington College in Vermont, and taught at the Black Mountain College, North Carolina. He began reinventing Dr. Bauersfeld’s (1926) German geodesic dome, getting US patents, and made it more popular. In 1949 Bucky built his first geodesic dome (icosahedron). The US Army employed his firm Geodesics Inc. to make them domes.
By the 1950’s there were thousands of geodesic domes around the World. In 1955 Bucky met a new partner, James Fitzgibbon.
In the 1960’s Bucky taught at Southern Illinois University. During a meeting of the International Union of Architects in Paris, Bucky initiated a “World Design Science Decade (65-75)” to apply the principles of science to solve human problems. During this time Bucky advocated alternative renewable energy sources, and a global awakening awareness of Synergy on Spaceship Earth that makes corrupt politics obsolete.
At the Symposium on the Science of Creative Intelligence in Amherst, MA 1971; Buckminster Fuller and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi spoke at a Press Conference together. Bucky criticized previous utopian schemes as too exclusive, and thought this was a major source of their failure. To work, he thought that a utopia needs to include everyone.
As a Unitarian philosopher and scientific environmentalist, Bucky developed a term to protect our resources called Ephemeralization which meant “doing more with less”. Also combining Unitarian philosophy with science, engineering, and architecture he gave us the term Synergy. Synergetics uses physics and geometry to describe parts of a system in relation to the whole, how they change and work together. Bucky was driven by concern for human sustainability, yet he remained optimistic despite the conventional realities and set-backs during his lifetime.
Honors and Awards
28 US patents
Several Honorary Degrees
1960 awarded F.P. Brown Medal from Franklin Institute
1968 named a Fellow of American Academy of Arts & Sciences
1969 named “Humanist of the Year” by American Humanist Association
1970 Gold Medal from AIA
1983 Freedom Medal from President Ronald Reagan
“I am not trying to imitate Nature, but to understand her.”
“We have to respond to what the environment is doing.” – B.F.
“Selfishness is unnecessary and hence-forth unrationalizable…. War is obsolete.”
“The Big Show, Everything, is God to me.”