--Ragunath Padmanabhan
6 minute read
Dec 2, 2015


Excerpt from the the book A Fuller View by L.Steven Sieden

This biography separates the multitude of Bucky’s experiences into four distinct periods. The first of those periods was from his birth in 1895 through 1927. That was a time of experimentation and learning. He extended himself and his environment outward in search of limits; often learning from the painful lessons most people would categorize as failure. It was also a time of youthful exuberance and disappointment.

Fuller suffered the loss of his father, graduated from Milton Academy, twice enrolled at and was expelled from Harvard University, and worked as an apprentice millwright in Canada. Then he served as an officer in the Navy during World War I, married Anne Hewlett, and experienced the birth and untimely death of their first daughter. As a businessman, he held managerial positions in several diverse corporations and organized his own construction company. He used that company, Stockade Systems, to attempt establishing and propagating a radical new form of construction that failed financially after a few years. As a result of that endeavor, by 1927 he had lost all his money as well as the investments of his friends and family. 1927 marked the major shift in Bucky’s life and path as well as the beginning of the second period of his life, which lasted until 1947, when he invented the geodesic dome.

With the loss of his construction company and the birth of his second daughter, Allegra, Bucky found himself stranded with a young family in 1927 Chicago. He had no money, no job no formal education beyond high school, a reputation as an unsuccessful businessman, and no prospects for the future.

Extremely dejected, he seriously considered drowning himself in Lake Michigan. It was then that Bucky had the famous mystical experience that transformed his life. He realized that he did not belong to himself and, consequently, did not have the right to end his own life. In that cosmic flash, Bucky suddenly understood that he (like every human being) belonged to Universe, and he committed himself to an experiment that provided the foundation and context for his every action and decision during the next fifty-six years.

He decided to embark upon a lifelong experiment to determine and document what one average, healthy individual with no college degree and no money could accomplish on behalf of all humankind that could not be achieved by any nation, business, organization, or institution, no matter how wealthy or powerful.

With no apparent means of support for his family much less his experiment, Bucky resolved to use the only person available for observation. Thus, R. Buckminster Fuller adopted the alias “Guinea Pig B,” one person under the constant scrutiny of himself.

During the twenty years from 1927 through 1947 a more mature Fuller devoted a great deal of his time to a formidable search for Nature’s coordinating system. The discoveries he made in that investigation eventually became his radical Synergetic Mathematics, a mathematical system based on what he observed in Nature rather than man-made ideas and concepts. That system also became the foundation for Bucky’s most famous invention, the geodesic dome, and other of his insights and creations.

Following his commitment to work on behalf of all humankind and to never again work for a living, the initial problem Bucky took on was the issue of housing the expanding population of Spaceship Earth. He worked sporadically on the mass-producible Dymaxion House from 1927 until Beech Aircraft and the United States government joined him to produce a prototype in 1944.

During the 1930s Bucky held positions at Phelps Dodge and Fortune magazine, and these provided him with an opportunity to study Earth’s resources and Nature’s efficient operating strategy of doing “more with less” resources. Once he realized the significant benefit of Nature’s way of doing everything, he adopted it as a primary aspect of his work and life. Years later, he would bring the phenomenon of doing more with less into the popular culture as “synergy,” a term he singlehandedly moved from the obscurity of the chemistry lab into the light of public awareness.

In 1947, during one of his many stints as a visiting college professor, he combined his mathematical skills with his knowledge of construction and Nature’s coordinating system to produce his most famous invention—the geodesic dome. The creation of the geodesic dome also ushered in the third significant period of his life, which spanned from 1947 through 1976 as he continued his explorations while attaining celebrity status for his work with geodesic domes.

In the 1955 at the age of sixty, Fuller could have retired on his licensing fees from the geodesic dome, but he had no interest in gaining great wealth or slowing down. Instead, he expanded his effort to create success for all humankind. He personally designed and supervised the construction of most of the significant geodesic domes built during that period. He also expanded his unique “thinking out loud lecturing” around the world. In response to a constant flow of invitations, he was making at least 130 such appearances every year. In fact, he continued that hectic speaking schedule until his last presentation, an all-day session focused on integrity to a sold out auditorium in Huntington Beach, California, just one week prior to his death.

Bucky’s campaign on behalf of the success of all humans and life on Spaceship Earth was the focus of the last phase of his life from 1976 until his death on July 1, 1983. During that period, he was continually traveling, making presentations, writing and sharing as much of what he had learned as possible. It was a last ditch effort to make certain that his life was complete and that the had given everything possible in support of his mission to create “a world that works for everyone.”

Bucky wrote and published a detailed explanation of all that he had learned and found to be true regarding the human experience in his final major book, Critical Path. It outlines the course humankind must follow if we are to survive and thrive, and it explains that we have entered into a new era of sufficiency, you and me, cooperation and peace in which previous solutions and behaviors such as war, competition, politics, and corporate domination are obsolete.

This is the wisdom and the challenge that R. Buckminster Fuller left for us. His insights are as much a shining gem of hope and possibility as they were when he traveled around Spaceship Earth sharing his positive perspective that we can succeed as a species and be good stewards of our planet if we cooperate and shift our resources from weaponry to “livingry.”

Bucky remained true to his mission for 56 years. During that period, he saved and archived every possible aspect of his life, creating his Chronofile and making his life the most documented of any “ordinary, average” person in the history of humankind.

Although his personal experiment has yet to be fully examined, the success of Bucky’s life is indisputable. After discovering many of the natural underlying principles that govern all Universe, Bucky applied them to every aspect of his work where he:

- Was granted twenty-five U.S. patents.

- Wrote twenty-eight published books and thousands of articles.

- Received forty-seven honorary doctorates.

- Was presented with hundreds of major awards.

- Circled the globe fifty-seven times working on projects and lecturing.

- Presented an average of one hundred “thinking out loud” sessions per year (often labeled lectures, they would range from two to six or more hours in length), even when he was in his eighties.

Most important was his documentation and demonstration of the importance of the “little individual” in the grand scheme of human evolution. Living as a global citizen, Bucky was able to teach by example—showing us with his accomplishments and seeming failures that each of us possesses tremendous gifts that we can contribute to others and help create “a world that works for everyone.” He also proved that a person could have a satisfying, enjoyable life while making his or her unique contribution.

Dr. R. Buckminster Fuller died on July 1, 1983, at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, where he was faithfully watching over his beloved wife, Anne, who was in a coma and not expected to regain consciousness. Sitting at her bedside, hand in hand with his wife of sixty-six years, he felt something and exclaimed, “She squeezed my hand!” Moments later, Bucky experienced massive heart failure and died. Anne never regained consciousness and died thirty-six hours later. They were buried together in Milton, Massachusetts under a tombstone that reads “Call Me Trimtab.”


Posted by Ragunath Padmanabhan on Dec 2, 2015