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Success Stories: Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller is not only known for being one of the brightest inventors of his time but also for having received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his “contributions as geometrician, educator and architect-designer” that were “benchmarks of accomplishment in their fields”.

Richard Buckminster Fuller’s amazing ideas and inventions were often the results of approaching practical problems with both scientific knowledge and “outside the box thinking”. The following success story about Buckminster Fuller is separated into two parts; the first one consisting of the achievements in his life, the second one focusing on his personal life, which is also quite interesting.

Buckminster Fuller’s Career

The American engineer, inventor, architect and author Richard Buckminster Fuller, commonly known as “Bucky”, was born in 1895 in Milton, Massachusetts. Bucky Fuller spend a lot of his youth on Bear Island where he started to experiment with materials from the woods to create different tools and started to design devices for the propulsion of small boats. The experiences Fuller made during his youth helped him tremendously at the age of 22, where he served in the U.S. Navy as a shipboard radio operator and crash-boat commander, as he invented a facility for the downed aircraft recovery team that allowed them to pull downed airplanes out of the water.

After being discharged from military service Fuller was ambitious to improve the housing conditions and started to develop the Stockade Building System with his father-in-law, James Hewlett, that consisted out of compressed wood shavings for weatherproof and light-weight and housing. Two years later, Fuller completed the Dymaxion House, that could be mass-produced and easily dismantled and transported to another location, whenever it’s owner wished to relocate. In 1922, Fuller’s daughter Alexandra died from polio, which was a turning point in Fuller’s life, as he blamed himself for her dead and started drinking excessively. Despite Fuller’s revolutionizing inventions in the building sector he went bankruptcy in 1927, soon after his business with his father-in-law had failed.

Buckminster Fuller spent the next fifteen years with several projects and collaborations until he started teaching at the Black Mountain College, NC. During the time Fuller served as a Summer Institute director in college he formed a group of students and other professors, inclusively Kenneth Snelson and started to reinvent the dome that was designed by Walther Bauersfeld, just after WWI. Fuller advanced the idea of the dome and developed its intrinsic mathematics in collaboration with Snelson. The dome that Buckminster Fuller named “geodesic” received the U.S. patent in 1954, earned him international recognition and started to dominate his further career, as the U.S. Government employed Fuller’s firm to construct domes for the U.S. army.

The outstanding reputation Fuller earned with his Geodesic Dome allowed him to lecture at various well-known Universities around the world and gained him full professorship in 1968. Fuller’s outstanding contributions earned him various awards, such as the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Buckminster Fuller’s Life

I’ve chosen to include some very inspiring anecdotes of Fuller’s life, as I found it appropriate to also point out what a strong character and will power he had.

Fuller studied at Harvard and his life was like everyone else’s, he spend his spare-time partying and football and was expelled twice from Harvard, as he “lacked interest”. The event that changed Fuller’s life forever was the death of his daughter Alexandra. After his kid had died in his arms he started drinking heavily and – as the story tells – decided to end his life. Nevertheless, his inner voice told him not to do so as he hadn’t fulfilled the purpose of his life, yet, which made him eager to seek for what efforts he – as a broke man without power and money – could do on the behalf of humanity. During his longstanding search he discovered some of the principles of the universe, that he named the “Generalised Principles”, that can be found in his books “Synergetics” and included his attempts to make a positive difference in the world and to increase the happiness in his life and of the people he was living with.

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