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Buckminster Fuller

Richard Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller (July 12, 1895 - July 1, 1983) was an Americann visionary, designer, architect, inventor, and writer.

The American Pavilion of Expo '67, by R. Buckminster Fuller, now the Biosphère, on Île Sainte-Hélène, Montreal

Table of contents
1 Achievements
2 Biography
3 Concepts and buildings
4 Literature
5 Secondary literature
6 External links


Fuller became famous for his huge geodesic domes, which can be seen as part of military radar stations, city halls, and exhibition attractions. Their construction is based on extending basic principles to build simple tensegrity structures (tetrahedron, octahedron, and the closest packing of spheres). Built in this way they are extremely lightweight and stable. After getting a first patent for his domes in 1954, Fuller went on to explore nature's constructing principles to find solutions for designs in many areas of human life. He designed and built a safer, aerodynamic Dymaxion car, a more accurate Dymaxion Map, energy-efficient and low-cost Dymaxion houses (the term "Dymaxion" is contracted from DYnamic MAXimum tensION), radically strong and light tensegrity structures and much more. He also introduced synergetics, which explores holistic engineering structures in nature (long before the term synergy became popular).

One of Fuller's Dymaxion Houses is on display as a permanent exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. It has several innovative features, including revolving dresser drawers, a fine-mist shower that reduces water consumption and variable siting for enhanced atmospheric circulation. According to Fuller biographer Steve Crooks, the house was designed to be delivered in two cylindrical packages, with interior color panels available at local dealers' stores. The house was designed to rotate around a central mast to take advantage of natural winds for cooling and circulation.

His most lasting insights may be geometric. He claimed that the natural analytic geometry of the universe was based on arrays of tetrahedra. He developed this in several ways, from the close-packing of spheres and the number of compressive or tensile members required to stabilize an object in space. Some deep confirming results were that the strongest possible homogenous truss is cyclically tetrahedral, and all solids constructed of regular polygons, except the icosahedron, have a volume that is an integral number of unit-tetrahedrons.

Buckminster Fuller was one of the first to propagate a systemic worldview (see 'Operating manual for Spaceship Earth', 'Synergetics') and explored principles of energy and material efficiency in the fields of architecture, engineering and design.

A new allotrope of carbon (Fullerene) and a particular molecule of that allotrope (Buckminsterfullerene) have been named after him.

Fuller also coined the terms tensegrity and world around.

Fuller originated concepts explained in more accesable terms by K. Eric Drexler e.g. anticipatory design became design ahead: "The use of known principles of science and engineering to design systems that can only be built with tools not yet available; this permits faster exploitation of the abilities of new tools." [1]


Fuller was born on July 12 1895 in Milton, Massachusetts. He began studying at Harvard but was expelled from the university. He served in the US Navy in World War I. In 1927 at the age of 32, bankrupt and jobless, living in inferior housing in Chicago, he saw his beloved young daughter Alexandra die of pneumonia in winter. He felt responsible, and this drove him to drink and the verge of suicide. At the last moment he decided instead to embark on "an experiment, to find what a single individual can contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity." For the next half-century Buckminster Fuller contributed a wide range of ideas, designs and inventions to the world, particularly in the areas of practical, inexpensive shelter and transportation. Documenting his life, philosophy and ideas scrupulously in a daily diary and in 28 publications, Fuller was ultimately to be awarded 25 US patents and over 50 honorary doctorates.

His international career took off after the success of his huge geodesic domes in the 1950s. Now working as a designer, scientist, developer, and writer, for many years he also lectured all over the world on design. On January 16, 1970 Fuller received the Gold Medal award from the American Institute of Architects and has also received numerous other awards and honorary degrees.

He died at the age of 88, a guru of the design, architecture, and 'alternative' communities. It is said that while visiting his comatose wife in hospital, he said "She's waiting for me," closed his eyes, and died of a heart attack within 2 hours. His wife died 36 hours later.

Concepts and buildings

His concepts and buildings include:


His publications include:

Secondary literature

A discussion of his work on geometry and systems appears in A Fuller Explanation by Amy C. Edmondson. Buckminster Fuller also appears as a character in Paul Wühr's book "Das falsche Buch". His former student J. Baldwin wrote BuckyWorks: Buckminster Fuller's Ideas for Today (ISBN 0471198129)

External links