Buckminster Fuller Biography


Birthday: July 12, 1895 (Cancer)

Born In: Milton, Massachusetts, United States

Buckminster Fuller was a 20th century American architect, inventor, designer, systems theorist, futurist, and author. He created the geodesic dome, the only practical kind of building with no limiting dimensions. Throughout his life, he didn’t limit himself to one field of work but served as a comprehensive design scientist working on various global issues. Fuller descended from a long line of nonconformists, the most popular among them being his grand-aunt and cofounder of The Dial, Margaret Fuller, who was also a women's rights advocate. Fuller spent most of his early life on Bear Island in Penobscot Bay. As a school boy, he formalized his own concepts of geometry. By the age of 12, he had created a 'push pull' device for propelling a rowboat. During his time at Harvard College, he was expelled twice for being an irresponsible and carefree student. Between his sessions at the college, Fuller served in the U.S. Navy in World War I and also did a handful of other jobs. In 1917, he married Anne Hewlett, the daughter of popular architect James Monroe Hewlett. From 1974 to 1983, he served as the second World President of Mensa. Just 11 days before his 88th birthday, the great architect cum inventor died. His wife of 66 years, who suffered from cancer, passed away 36 hours later.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Richard Buckminster Fuller

Died At Age: 87


Spouse/Ex-: Anne Hewlett (1917)

father: Richard Buckminster Fuller

mother: Caroline Wolcott Andrews

children: Alexandra Fuller, Allegra Fuller Snyder

Born Country: United States

Inventors Architects

Height: 5'2" (157 cm), 5'2" Males

Died on: July 1, 1983

place of death: Los Angeles

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

U.S. State: Massachusetts

discoveries/inventions: Geodesic Dome

More Facts

education: Milton Academy, Harvard University, Bates College, Harvard College

Childhood & Early Life
Buckminster Fuller was born on July 12, 1895, in Milton, Massachusetts, USA, to Richard Buckminster Fuller and his wife Caroline Wolcott Andrews.
He attended Froebelian Kindergarten. During his time in school, he disagreed with the approach geometry was taught.
He started designing items at a young age. By the age of 12, he had created a 'push pull' device that was used to propel a rowboat.
After earning a machinist's certification, Fuller enrolled in Milton Academy and then went to study at Harvard College from where he was expelled twice.
During his time at Harvard, he worked as a mechanic in Canada and later as a laborer in the meat-packing industry. He also served as a shipboard radio operator in the U.S. Navy during World War I. After discharge, Fuller again joined the meat-packing company to gain management experience.
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Depression, Epiphany & Recovery
In 1922, Buckminster Fuller suffered from severe depression after his daughter Alexandra died before her fourth birthday from polio and spinal meningitis.
In 1927, at the age of 32, he lost his job as the president of Stockade. His unemployment and the birth of his daughter Allegra in 1927 added to his financial challenges which compelled him to contemplate suicide by drowning in Lake Michigan.
A profound incident happened that made him re-analyze his life. Fuller felt suspended several feet above the ground and heard a voice coming from a white sphere of light. The incident made him re-examine his life.
He eventually chose to embark on a new journey with the aim to contribute to the world and benefit all humanity.
By 1928, he had become good friends with Marie and Eugene O'Neill whom he met in the café Romany Marie's. Fuller accepted the job of an interior designer in exchange for meals. A year later, he became familiar with the Japanese American architect Isamu Noguchi. Later, they collaborated on many projects.
In 1948 and 1949, Buckminster Fuller taught at North Carolina’s Black Mountain College. During this time, he made his famous invention, the geodesic dome. In 1949, he erected his first ever geodesic dome building.
In 1964, he alongside architect Shoji Sadao founded the architectural company Fuller & Sadao Inc. Together, they designed the geodesic dome for the U.S. Pavilion.
From 1959 to 1970, Fuller served as a professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. During this time, he lectured all across the globe.
In 1965, he collaborated with John McHale to inaugurate the World Design Science Decade at a conference of the International Union of Architects held in Paris.
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The Geodesic Dome
Although Fuller was not the first inventor of the geodesic dome as it had been devised by Dr. Walther Bauersfeld 26 years earlier, he was awarded United States patents for the same. In 1949, he constructed his first geodesic dome that was able to sustain its own weight with no practical dimensions.
His first lattice shell structure based on "continuous tension – discontinuous compression" came out in 1959. This structure was erected at the University of Oregon Architecture School and featured single force compression members that were suspended by the tensional members.
Dymaxion Car
Fuller designed the Dymaxion car which first featured at the Century of Progress World's Fair in Chicago in 1933. The car was an "omni-medium transport" for land, air, and water. It featured a rear-mounted V8 engine, a cromoly-steel hinged chassis, and front-drive and three-wheels.
Shortly after launch, a prototype crashed in a car accident, killing the Dymaxion's driver.
Dymaxion Map and World Game
Fuller collaborated with Shoji Sadao to design the Dymaxion map. This alternative projection map was designed to illustrate Earth's continents with least distortion when printed or projected on a flat surface.
In the 1960s, Fuller came up with the World Game, a simulation game played on a Dymaxion map, in which games try to solve world problems.
Fuller garnered much attention for his inexpensive and energy-efficient Dymaxion house. Currently displayed at Michigan’s Henry Ford Museum, the house was designed during the mid-1940s and featured a round structure in a shape of a flattened "bell".
Because of its portability and light weight, the house was constructed keeping in mind the families who desired for hassle-free mobility. The Dymaxion house had many innovative features, including a fine-mist shower that lessens water usage and revolving dresser drawers.
In 1969, Fuller started the Otisco Project that emerged as one of his greatest contributions in the field of architecture. The project was designed to develop extensive, load-bearing spanning structures built on-site, without the need of pouring molds and other adjacent surfaces.
Awards & Achievements
Buckminster Fuller was awarded several honorary doctorates. He garnered 28 United States patents.
In 1960, The Franklin Institute awarded him the Frank P. Brown Medal.
During 1967 and 1968, he was elected into the Phi Beta Kappa, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Design.
In 1970, Fuller was honored by the American Institute of Architects with a Gold Medal.
Family & Personal Life
Buckminster Fuller was a grand-nephew of Margaret Fuller who was a well-known journalist and women's rights advocate.
In 1917, he married Anne Hewlett, the daughter of popular architect James Monroe Hewlett. They had two daughters, Alexandra, who died in 1922, and Allegra Fuller Snyder, who grew up to be a dancer and choreographer.
On July 1, 1983, Fuller died after suffering a heart attack during his visit to the hospital where his wife was dying of cancer. His wife died 36 hours later.

See the events in life of Buckminster Fuller in Chronological Order

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