Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller bigraphy, stories - American inventor and author

Buckminster Fuller : biography

July 12, 1895 – July 1, 1983

Richard Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller ( July 12, 1895 – July 1, 1983) was an American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor, and futurist.

Fuller published more than 30 books, inventing and popularizing terms such as "Spaceship Earth", ephemeralization, and synergetic. He also developed numerous inventions, mainly architectural designs, including the widely known geodesic dome. Carbon molecules known as fullerenes were later named by scientists for their resemblance to geodesic spheres.

Buckminster Fuller was the second president of Mensa from 1974 to 1983.

Philosophy and worldview

The grandson of Unitarian minister Arthur Buckminster Fuller, R. Buckminster Fuller was also Unitarian. Buckminster Fuller was an early environmental activist. He was very aware of the finite resources the planet has to offer, and promoted a principle that he termed "ephemeralization", which, in essence—according to futurist and Fuller disciple Stewart Brand—Fuller coined to mean "doing more with less". Resources and waste material from cruder products could be recycled into making more valuable products, increasing the efficiency of the entire process. Fuller also introduced synergetics, an encompassing term which he used broadly as a metaphoric language for communicating experiences using geometric concepts and, more specifically, to reference the empirical study of systems in transformation, with an emphasis on total system behavior unpredicted by the behavior of any isolated components. Fuller coined this term long before the term synergy became popular.

Fuller was a pioneer in thinking globally, and he explored principles of energy and material efficiency in the fields of architecture, engineering and design. He cited François de Chardenedes’ opinion that petroleum, from the standpoint of its replacement cost out of our current energy "budget" (essentially, the net incoming solar flux), had cost nature "over a million dollars" per U.S. gallon (US$300,000 per litre) to produce. From this point of view, its use as a transportation fuel by people commuting to work represents a huge net loss compared to their earnings. An encapsulation quotation of his views might be, "There is no energy crisis, only a crisis of ignorance."

Fuller was concerned about sustainability and about human survival under the existing socio-economic system, yet remained optimistic about humanity’s future. Defining wealth in terms of knowledge, as the "technological ability to protect, nurture, support, and accommodate all growth needs of life," his analysis of the condition of "Spaceship Earth" caused him to conclude that at a certain time during the 1970s, humanity had attained an unprecedented state. He was convinced that the accumulation of relevant knowledge, combined with the quantities of major recyclable resources that had already been extracted from the earth, had attained a critical level, such that competition for necessities was not necessary anymore. Cooperation had become the optimum survival strategy. "Selfishness," he declared, "is unnecessary and hence-forth unrationalizable…. War is obsolete." He criticized previous utopian schemes as too exclusive, and thought this was a major source of their failure. To work, he thought that a utopia needed to include everyone.

So it is not surprising that he and others of his stature were attracted by Korzybski’s ideas in general semantics. General semantics is a discipline of mind that seeks to unify persons and nations by changing their worldview reaction and the philosophy of their expression. In the 1950s Fuller attended seminars and workshops organized by the Institute of General Semantics, and he delivered the annual Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture in 1955. Korzybski is mentioned in the Introduction of his book Synergetics. The two gentlemen shared a remarkable amount of similarity in their formulations of general semantics.