Richard Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller (1895
- 1983). Visionary, designer, architect,
inventor, philosopher, artist, poet, educator,
seminal futurist and global thinker. Known,
popularly, as the inventor of the geodesic dome.
Buckminster Fuller popularized the
term, synergy. Much of his work was about
exploring and creating synergy. He found synergy
to be a basic principle of all interactive
systems, and developed a body of thought called
Synergetics, a "Geometry of Thinking".
Buckminster Fuller, in the opinion of
many, was the 20th century's Leonardo da Vinci.
His endless intellect, prescience, and body of
work was always ahead of his time. It will take
centuries to fully comprehend and apply his
Hopefully, however, his influence will
grow in less time than that. For, one of his
primary concerns was whether humanity has a chance
to survive successfully on "Spaceship Earth." "If
so, how?" he would ask. Then he would explain how
always with a sense of urgency. I hope we
My first 2 hours
I first encountered "Bucky" at a 2-hour
lecture he gave at M.I.T. in 1973 or 1974.
Bucky challenged common perceptions of
reality, and added new realities to mathematical,
architectural, intellectual, and social
At the M.I.T. lecture, I remember one his
observational rifts in particular. He asked:
"What is a baby
doing when he or she in is a high chair and
keeps dropping a spoon on the floor? You pick it
up, the baby drops it. This continues."
The traditional explanation is that power
play dynamics are at work. But here is Bucky's
"Here is what is
really going on: the baby is discovering
The next 42 hours
A couple of years later, I decided to
travel to Harvard to attend one of his renowned
42-hour "Everything I Know" sessions.
The content of "Everything I know"
session is best described in the Preface to
"Session Log" published by the Buckminster Fuller
"During the last two
weeks of January 1975 Buckminster Fuller gave an
extraordinary series of lectures concerning his
entire lifes work. These thinking out loud
lectures span 42 hours and examine in depth all
of Fuller's major inventions and discoveries
from the 1927 Dymaxion house, car and bathroom,
through the Wichita House, geodesic domes, and
tensegrity structures, as well as the contents
parts, Fuller recounts his own personal history
in the context of the history of science and
The stories behind
his Dymaxion car, geodesic domes, World Game and
integration of science and humanism are lucidly
communicated with continuous reference to his
entire series is his unique comprehensive design
approach to solving the problems of the world.
Some of the topics Fuller covered in this wide
ranging discourse include: architecture, design,
philosophy, education, mathematics, geometry,
cartography, economics, history, structure,
industry, housing and engineering."
The Session Log is
being updated constantly, and various
recordings are transcribed and added. The
First Edition was published by the
Copyright © 1997 Estate of R.
Buckminster Fuller. The
most recent iteration can be found at:
I sat in the first row looking up at
Bucky and the spread of models he used as his his
Energizer Bunny-mode of lecturing cascaded through
the hours a non-stop talk filled with "Bucky-isms"
the unique special phrases he was continually
coining. Seemingly disparate thoughts strung
together, manipulated, woven together, turned
inside out . . . run-on sentences of complex
terminologies and principles of
science-history-and common sense integrated into
gifts of epiphanies.
He warned people at the beginning of his
stream-of-conscious lectures not to fret about
understanding anything he said, while he was
saying it. In the end, it would make sense. And,
As the hours passed, most of what he said
seemed incomprehensible. But then gradually even
if one could not understand the complex
geometries, geologies, cosmologies,
anthropologies, physics, and calculus tumbling
from his mind illumination began to seep in.
Dots became connected.
Bucky continues to exert a huge influence
in my own life and thought.
I think of him often especially every
time I use the word "synergy" or try to teach
strategic thinking and creative problem solving.
I also think of him when I see human
suffering from such natural disasters as Katrina
and recent earthquakes where many people are
Bucky invented an expensive portable dome
house, complete with self-contained power and
plumbing. It could be easily delivered to disaster
areas, and assembled quickly. Because at the core
of its design was the triangle which, in his
lectures and writing, Bucky demonstrates is so
much stronger than square and rectangular
structures the unit could withstand additional
threats from nature.
While following the Katrina tragedies, I
was saddened at how our continuing national
inability to literally think "outside the box," to
look for innovative solutions, to challenge
corporate power that prevents alternative,
quicker, more effective solutions.
People made so instantly and tragically
homeless can be better served.
As can people who flee violence and
oppression and populate refugees camps with
horrendous living conditions that could be
alleviated so easily if politicians and relief
groups looked to Bucky, and embraced his deep
understanding of human potential.
In 1980, Bucky
"For the first time
in history it is now possible to take care of
everybody at a higher standard of living than
any have ever known. Only ten years ago the
'more with less' technology reached the point
where this could be done. All humanity now has
the option of becoming enduringly successful."
Author James T. Baldwin, author of "BuckyWorks:
Buckminster Fuller's Ideas for Today," a
useful introduction to Fuller's work, wrote:
"His alternative to
politics was radical and deeply subversive. If
we are designed like other animals to be a
success, then nature must have provided enough
of everything needed for all to live a healthy
People living well would have little interest in
fighting and destruction. Bucky decided that
reliable information and efficient design could
identify and fairly distribute the Earth's
resources, bringing a good life to all.
Developing that information and putting it to
work would be [his] mission."
Bucky's prescience and influence are yet
to be measured. But, if we look closely, we can
sense his impact around us everyday. He was a
student of the history of human communication and
change. He measured the acceleration of change
instinctively perceiving, understanding, and
predicting the impact of the Worldwide Web. His
world map demonstrates what no other maps do.
Echoes of his three-wheeled Dymaxion car, a
colossal flop after its invention, can be sensed
every week as new three-wheel vehicles are finding
applications. And on and on.
Anyone with vision, a drive for
innovation, an instinct for strategic and creative
thought should delve into this man's work. It
will be a transforming, life-hanging experience.
And certainly, young people searching for
solutions to our most difficult challenges will
find comfort and inspiration in getting to know
One of my most treasured possessions is a
letter I received from Bucky in the late 1970s
after I sent him a copy of "eclectic," a
magazine I had published and edited. Since it was
inspired, in part, by my 42 hours with him, I was
thrilled when, after I sent him a copy, he wrote
me: "It is well done."