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Fuller, R. Buckminster

Fuller, R. Buckminster


Richard Buckminster Fuller, Bucky to those who knew him, was born on July 12, 1895 in Milton Massachusetts. As a boy he went to school at Milton Academy, he went to Harvard University but was expelled twice and never graduated college. He served in the Navy during World War I and invented a winch-like device for rescuing pilots of the service’s primitive airplanes.  After his stint in the military he worked with his father-in-law manufacturing bricks made of wood particles(1), the company failed and left Fuller broke with a wife and child. While contemplating suicide he had a vision and decided to pursue a life devoted to himself, through experiments and invention, to helping humanity(2). He then went on to create a string of innovations, most of which were unsuccessful and way ahead of their time. He coined the term Dymaxion, which is a combination of the words dynamics, maximum and ion. His Dymaxion car was a two seater tear drop looking car with two wheels in the front and one in the back, only three prototypes were made before production was halted in 1934. The Dymaxion house, circular in plan to prevent heat loss and with a tiny heating unit and air-conditioning unit(3) also failed after only two models were constructed. The center of the house had a mast in which all the major plumbing and electrical components were stored, the house was meant to have the ability to be disassembled and taken along, like a bed or a table(1).This too did not make it as the project halted production after only two houses were made.  He invented the Dymaxion Map, which is a flattened view of the world which retains most of the relative proportional integrity of the globe map(4).  His Geodesic domes are what he is more commonly known for. He created a structure that was more stable and used less material by assembling tetrahedrons in a dome-like shape. The Geodesic dome inspired numerous people and there are over 300,000 productions of it worldwide.(5) Fuller envisioned cities enclosed in larger scale versions of these domes floating in the clouds, he called it Cloud Nine.  After the fame of his domes spread Fuller became a renowned speaker at many universities.

In the late 1950’s until his death in 1983 Fuller was a research professor in design science and a professor emeritus at Southern Illinois University(3). He earned 47 Honorary doctorate degrees, published 28 books, numerous articles, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, earned 25 patents and had a carbon molecule named after him because its structure resembled the geodesic dome. It is called the buckminsterfullerene, or “buckyball”(6). In 1983 the Buckminster Fuller Institute was created and it is dedicated to “accelerating the development and deployment of solutions which radically advance human well being and the health of our planet’s ecosystems”(7). In 2008 the Institute started the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, which is a design challenge that takes place yearly, and it is to encourage solutions that have potential in solving some of humanity’s biggest problems. Buckminster Fuller has been inspirations to many including Louis Kahn, and was a mentor to Norman Foster who has made his own version of the Dymaxion car.

Selected Projects

Expo Center, Montreal, Canada

Dymaxion House, Wichita, Kansas

Dymaxion Car in National Automobile Museum, Reno, Nevada

Dymaxion Map

Religious center, Edwardsville, Illinois

Additional Projects

Cloud Nine, Conceptual Drawing


Fly’s Eye

Bucky’s “Dome City

[1] New Yorker; 6/9/2008, Vol. 84 Issue 17, p64-69.

[2]Newsweek; 6/30/2008, Vol. 151 Issue 26, p48-50

[3]Encyclopedia of World Biography. Vol. 6. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2004. p149-150.


Written by Nate Conrad

January 24, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Posted in Engineers