Buckminster Fuller

55

Buckminster Fuller : biography

July 12, 1895 – July 1, 1983

"Dymaxion" is a portmanteau of "dynamic maximum tension". It was invented about 1929 by two adman at Marshall Field’s department store in Chicago to describe Fuller’s concept house, which was shown as part of a house of the future store display. They created the term utilizing three words that Fuller used repeatedly to describe his design – dynamic, maximum, and ion.R. Buckminster Fuller – Autobiographical Monologue/Scenario,St. Martin’s Press, Inc.,1980, page 54.

Fuller also helped to popularise the concept of Spaceship Earth: "The most important fact about Spaceship Earth: an instruction manual didn’t come with it." 090810 cjfearnley.com

Biography

Fuller was born on July 12, 1895, in Milton, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Buckminster Fuller and Caroline Wolcott Andrews, and also the grandnephew of the American Transcendentalist Margaret Fuller. He attended Froebelian Kindergarten. Spending much of his youth on Bear Island, in Penobscot Bay off the coast of Maine, he had trouble with geometry, being unable to understand the abstraction necessary to imagine that a chalk dot on the blackboard represented a mathematical point, or that an imperfectly drawn line with an arrow on the end was meant to stretch off to infinity. He often made items from materials he brought home from the woods, and sometimes made his own tools. He experimented with designing a new apparatus for human propulsion of small boats.

Years later, he decided that this sort of experience had provided him with not only an interest in design, but also a habit of being familiar with and knowledgeable about the materials that his later projects would require. Fuller earned a machinist’s certification, and knew how to use the press brake, stretch press, and other tools and equipment used in the sheet metal trade.

Education

Fuller attended Milton Academy in Massachusetts, and after that began studying at Harvard University, where he was affiliated with Adams House. He was expelled from Harvard twice: first for spending all his money partying with a vaudeville troupe, and then, after having been readmitted, for his "irresponsibility and lack of interest." By his own appraisal, he was a non-conforming misfit in the fraternity environment.

Wartime experience

Between his sessions at Harvard, Fuller worked in Canada as a mechanic in a textile mill, and later as a laborer in the meat-packing industry. He also served in the U.S. Navy in World War I, as a shipboard radio operator, as an editor of a publication, and as a crash rescue boat commander. After discharge, he worked again in the meat packing industry, thereby acquiring management experience. In 1917, he married Anne Hewlett. During the early 1920s, he and his father-in-law developed the Stockade Building System for producing light-weight, weatherproof, and fireproof housing—although the company would ultimately fail.

Bankruptcy and depression

By age 32, Fuller was bankrupt and jobless, living in low-income public housing in Chicago, Illinois. In 1922,R. Buckminster Fuller, Your Private Sky, Page 27 Fuller’s young daughter Alexandra died from complications from polio and spinal meningitis. 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."

Recovery

In 1927 Fuller resolved to think independently which included a commitment to "the search for the principles governing the universe and help advance the evolution of humanity in accordance with them… finding ways of doing more with less to the end that all people everywhere can have more and more." By 1928, Fuller was living in Greenwich Village and spending much of his time at the popular café Romany Marie’s, where he had spent an evening in conversation with Marie and Eugene O’Neill several years earlier.Lloyd Steven Sieden. Buckminster Fuller’s Universe: His Life and Work (pp. 74, 119–142). New York: Perseus Books Group, 2000. ISBN 0-7382-0379-3. p. 74: "Although O’Neill soon became well known as a major American playwright, it was Romany Marie who would significantly influence Bucky, becoming his close friend and confidante during the most difficult years of his life." Fuller accepted a job decorating the interior of the café in exchange for meals, giving informal lectures several times a week, and models of the Dymaxion house were exhibited at the café. Isamu Noguchi arrived during 1929—Constantin Brâncuşi, an old friend of Marie’s,Robert Schulman. Romany Marie: The Queen of Greenwich Village (pp. 85–86, 109–110). Louisville: Butler Books, 2006. ISBN 1-884532-74-8. had directed him there—and Noguchi and Fuller were soon collaborating on several projects, including the modeling of the Dymaxion car based on recent work by Aurel Persu. Includes several images. It was the beginning of their lifelong friendship.