An American Genius
R. Buckminster Fuller was a renowned 20th century inventor and visionary born in Milton, Massachusetts on July 12, 1895. Dedicating his life to making the world work for all of humanity, Fuller operated as a practical philosopher who demonstrated his ideas as inventions that he called “artifacts.” Fuller did not limit himself to one field but worked as a 'comprehensive anticipatory design scientist' to solve global problems surrounding housing, shelter, transportation, education, energy, ecological destruction, and poverty. Throughout the course of his life Fuller held 28 patents, authored 28 books, received 47 honorary degrees. And while his most well know artifact, the geodesic dome, has been produced over 300,000 times worldwide, Fuller's true impact on the world today can be found in his continued influence upon generations of designers, architects, scientists and artists working to create a more sustainable planet.
Timeline of Bucky's Life
- 1895 | Richard Buckminster Fuller is born July 12 in Milton, Massachusetts to Richard Buckminster Fuller, Sr. and Caroline Wolcott (Andrews) Fuller.
- 1913 | Fuller graduates from Milton Academy and enters Harvard University.
- 1914 | Fuller is expelled from Harvard. The family elders convene and decide that hard work will help him to shape up. He is sent to work as an apprentice machine fitter at a textile mill in Quebec, Canada. He is reinstated to Harvard in Fall 1914.
- 1915 | Bucky is expelled from Harvard for the second and final time. Administration cites “lack of ambition.” He takes a job with the meat-packing firm of Armour and Company in New York City, a demanding job with intense work schedules, six days per week.
- 1916 | Bucky gets engaged to Anne Hewlett, daughter of a prominent New York architect, James Monroe Hewlett.
- 1917 | Bucky enlists in the U.S. Navy Reserve. He volunteers his family’s cabin cruiser, with a crew of six including his brother Wolly and best friend Lincoln Pierce, to patrol the Maine shoreline. Fuller and Anne Hewlett are married on July 12.
- 1918 | Fuller attends the U.S. Naval Academy for a 3-month short training course and is promoted to Lieutenant J.G. His first child, Alexandra, is born on December 12.
- 1919 | Alexandra contracts spinal meningitis and infantile paralysis, and Fuller resigns from the Navy in order to spend more time with his family.
- 1922 | Alexandra dies, leaving Bucky with an extreme sense of tragedy that he wasn't able to provide her with a better shelter. Together with his father-in-law, J. Monroe Hewlett, he founds the Stockade Corporation, a small building company with a proprietary system that uses compressed bricks to construct light yet sturdy buildings.
- 1926 | Stockade fails to make a profit. The company is sold to Celotex Company and Bucky is fired from his position as president.
- 1927 | Considering himself a complete failure, Fuller seriously contemplates taking his life. Instead, he vows to use his life as an experiment aimed at discovering what an average, healthy individual (albeit penniless and with a family to support) can do in service of all humanity. He enters a period of deep introspection, absorbed in study and meditation, speaking to almost nobody for two years. His second daughter, Allegra, is born in Chicago. Fuller founds the 4D Company to research and develop his ideas for the super-light and efficient 4D house and car.
- 1929 | The Fullers move from Chicago to New York. The word Dymaxion is coined by public relations staff at the Marshall Field Department store, where Fuller is presenting a model of his 4-D House. The word is a combination of dynamic, maximum, and ion, and is copyrighted in Fuller's name courtesy of the department store.
- 1930 | Fuller takes over T-Square, an architectural magazine, and changes the name to Shelter. He becomes the owner and editor-in-chief and publishes for the next two years.
- 1933 | Fuller founds the Dymaxion Corporation in Bridgeport, Connecticut and builds the first prototype Dymaxion Car.
- 1935 | The second and third Dymnaxion Cars are built and presented at the Chicago World’s Fair. An untimely accident results in bad press for the once promising invention. Fuller completes the book Nine Chains to the Moon.
- 1940 | Fuller works with the Butler Manufacturing Company of Kansas City to develop Dymaxion Deployment Units, low-cost shelters built from Butler’s metal grain bins. The units are used by the military during WWII to house equipment and troops in rural, isolated locations.
- 1946 | Bucky is awarded a patent for his Dymaxion Air-Ocean Map, which is considerably less distorted than traditional map projections.
- 1947 | Fuller teaches at Black Mountain College in North Carolina and develops the geodesic dome.
- 1953 | The Ford dome, the first practical application of the geodesic dome, is completed.
- 1954 | Fuller receives patent for geodesic domes. The Marine Corps experiments successfully with airlifting and delivery of small geodesic shelter domes by helicopter.
- 1956 | Fuller becomes a visiting lecturer at Southern Illinois University and remains associated with the university for several years.
- 1959 | A one-year exhibit of geodesic domes opens at New York's Museum of Modern Art. Bucky and Anne move into a geodesic dome house near the Southern Illinois University campus.
- 1962 | Fuller is the visiting Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University.
- 1963 | Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, No More Secondhand God, Ideas and Integrities, and Education Automation are published.
- 1964 | Bucky appears on the cover of Time Magazine. He is also commissioned as the architect of the U.S. Pavilion for the 1967 World Expo, to be held in Montreal.
- 1966 | Fuller inaugurates the World Game at Southern Illinois University, an educational game focusing on global resource allocation.
- 1971 | Fuller proposes the“Old Man River City” design for low cost housing in East St. Louis.
- 1975 | Synergetics, the result of decades of exploration into an alternate mathematical coordinate system, is published. Fuller is appointed Professor Emeritus at Southern Illinois University and the University of Pennsylvania.
- 1977 | Fuller develops two more types of geodesic domes, the Pinecone Dome and the Fly’s Eye Dome.
- 1979 | Fuller makes an extensive visit to the People’s Republic of China. Synergetics 2 is published.
- 1980 | Fuller publishes Critical Path. He is appointed to the presidential commission to prepare the “Global 2000 Report” on energy and the global environment. He continues an ambitious schedule of lectures around the world.
- 1982 | Fuller receives the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, from President Ronald Reagan. He publishes Grunch of Giants and receives a patent for a hanging storage unit.
- 1983 | Fuller dies on July 1, 1983 in Los Angeles, while visiting his comatose wife, Anne, in the hospital. Anne never wakes from the coma and dies 36 hours later.