Buckminster Fuller (Architect) – Overview, Biography

Buckminster Fuller
Name:Buckminster Fuller
Occupation: Architect
Birth Day: July 12,
Age: 124
Country: Canada
Zodiac Sign:Cancer

Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller was born on July 12, 1895 in Canada (124 years old). Buckminster Fuller is an Architect, zodiac sign: Cancer. Nationality: Canada. Approx. Net Worth: Undisclosed.


He was was the second president of Mensa, the largest and oldest high IQ society, from 1974 to 1983, and he received the Gold Medal award from the American Institute of Architects in 1970.

Net Worth 2020

Find out more about Buckminster Fuller net worth here.


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Before Fame

He struggled with geometry, but excelled in mechanics, building things he would find in the woods.


Biography Timeline


Fuller was born on July 12, 1895, in Milton, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Buckminster Fuller and Caroline Wolcott Andrews, and grand-nephew of Margaret Fuller, an American journalist, critic, and women’s rights advocate associated with the American transcendentalism movement. The unusual middle name, Buckminster, was an ancestral family name. As a child, Richard Buckminster Fuller tried numerous variations of his name. He used to sign his name differently each year in the guest register of his family summer vacation home at Bear Island, Maine. He finally settled on R. Buckminster Fuller.


Between his sessions at Harvard, Fuller worked in Canada as a mechanic in a textile mill, and later as a laborer in the meat-packing industry. He also served in the U.S. Navy in World War I, as a shipboard radio operator, as an editor of a publication, and as commander of the crash rescue boat USS Inca. After discharge, he worked again in the meat packing industry, acquiring management experience. In 1917, he married Anne Hewlett. During the early 1920s, he and his father-in-law developed the Stockade Building System for producing light-weight, weatherproof, and fireproof housing—although the company would ultimately fail in 1927.


Buckminster Fuller recalled 1927 as a pivotal year of his life. His daughter Alexandra had died in 1922 of complications from polio and spinal meningitis just before her fourth birthday. Stanford historian, Barry Katz, found signs that around this time in his life Fuller was suffering from depression and anxiety. Fuller dwelled on his daughter’s death, suspecting that it was connected with the Fullers’ damp and drafty living conditions. This provided motivation for Fuller’s involvement in Stockade Building Systems, a business which aimed to provide affordable, efficient housing.


At Black Mountain, with the support of a group of professors and students, he began reinventing a project that would make him famous: the geodesic dome. Although the geodesic dome had been created, built and awarded a German patent on June 19, 1925 by Dr. Walther Bauersfeld, Fuller was awarded United States patents. Fuller neglected to cite that the self supporting dome had already been built some 26 years prior in his patent applications. Although Fuller undoubtedly popularized this type of structure he is mistakenly given credit for its design.


In 1927, at age 32, Fuller lost his job as president of Stockade. The Fuller family had no savings, and the birth of their daughter Allegra in 1927 added to the financial challenges. Fuller drank heavily and reflected upon the solution to his family’s struggles on long walks around Chicago. During the autumn of 1927, Fuller contemplated suicide by drowning in Lake Michigan, so that his family could benefit from a life insurance payment.

In 1927 Fuller resolved to think independently which included a commitment to “the search for the principles governing the universe and help advance the evolution of humanity in accordance with them … finding ways of doing more with less to the end that all people everywhere can have more and more”. By 1928, Fuller was living in Greenwich Village and spending much of his time at the popular café Romany Marie’s, where he had spent an evening in conversation with Marie and Eugene O’Neill several years earlier. Fuller accepted a job decorating the interior of the café in exchange for meals, giving informal lectures several times a week, and models of the Dymaxion house were exhibited at the café. Isamu Noguchi arrived during 1929—Constantin Brâncuși, an old friend of Marie’s, had directed him there—and Noguchi and Fuller were soon collaborating on several projects, including the modeling of the Dymaxion car based on recent work by Aurel Persu. It was the beginning of their lifelong friendship.


In the 1920s, Fuller experimented with polyphasic sleep, which he called Dymaxion sleep. Inspired by the sleep habits of animals such as dogs and cats, Fuller worked until he was tired, and then slept short naps. This generally resulted in Fuller sleeping 30-minute naps every 6 hours. This allowed him “twenty-two thinking hours a day”, which aided his work productivity. Fuller reportedly kept this Dymaxion sleep habit for two years, before quitting the routine because it conflicted with his business associates’ sleep habits. Despite no longer personally partaking in the habit, in 1943 Fuller suggested Dymaxion sleep as a strategy that the United States could adopt to win World War II.


One of his early models was first constructed in 1945 at Bennington College in Vermont, where he lectured often. Although Bauersfeild’s dome could support a full skin of concrete it was not until 1949 that Fuller erected a geodesic dome building that could sustain its own weight with no practical limits. It was 4.3 meters (14 feet) in diameter and constructed of aluminium aircraft tubing and a vinyl-plastic skin, in the form of an icosahedron. To prove his design, Fuller suspended from the structure’s framework several students who had helped him build it. The U.S. government recognized the importance of this work, and employed his firm Geodesics, Inc. in Raleigh, North Carolina to make small domes for the Marines. Within a few years, there were thousands of such domes around the world.


Fuller taught at Black Mountain College in North Carolina during the summers of 1948 and 1949, serving as its Summer Institute director in 1949. Fuller had been shy and withdrawn, but he was persuaded to participate in a theatrical performance of Erik Satie’s Le piège de Méduse produced by John Cage, who was also teaching at Black Mountain. During rehearsals, under the tutelage of Arthur Penn, then a student at Black Mountain, Fuller broke through his inhibitions to become confident as a performer and speaker.

International recognition began with the success of huge geodesic domes during the 1950s. Fuller lectured at North Carolina State University in Raleigh in 1949, where he met James Fitzgibbon, who would become a close friend and colleague. Fitzgibbon was director of Geodesics, Inc. and Synergetics, Inc. the first licensees to design geodesic domes. Thomas C. Howard was lead designer, architect and engineer for both companies. Richard Lewontin, a new faculty member in population genetics at North Carolina State University, provided Fuller with computer calculations for the lengths of the domes’ edges.


Fuller began working with architect Shoji Sadao in 1954, and in 1964 they co-founded the architectural firm Fuller & Sadao Inc., whose first project was to design the large geodesic dome for the U.S. Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal. This building is now the “Montreal Biosphère”. In 1962, the artist and searcher John McHale wrote the first monograph on Fuller, published by George Braziller in New York.


Fuller was influenced by Alfred Korzybski’s idea of general semantics. In the 1950s, Fuller attended seminars and workshops organized by the Institute of General Semantics, and he delivered the annual Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture in 1955. Korzybski is mentioned in the Introduction of his book Synergetics. The two shared a remarkable amount of similarity in their formulations of general semantics.


Fuller’s first “continuous tension – discontinuous compression” geodesic dome (full sphere in this case) was constructed at the University of Oregon Architecture School in 1959 with the help of students. These continuous tension – discontinuous compression structures featured single force compression members (no flexure or bending moments) that did not touch each other and were ‘suspended’ by the tensional members.


Fuller was awarded 28 United States patents and many honorary doctorates. In 1960, he was awarded the Frank P. Brown Medal from The Franklin Institute. Fuller was elected as an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa in 1967, on the occasion of the 50th year reunion of his Harvard class of 1917 (from which he was expelled in his first year). He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1968. In 1968, he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member, and became a full Academician in 1970. In 1970, he received the Gold Medal award from the American Institute of Architects. In 1976, he received the St. Louis Literary Award from the Saint Louis University Library Associates. In 1977, Fuller received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement. He also received numerous other awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom presented to him on February 23, 1983, by President Ronald Reagan.


Working as a designer, scientist, developer, and writer, he continued to lecture for many years around the world. He collaborated at SIU with John McHale. In 1965, they inaugurated the World Design Science Decade (1965 to 1975) at the meeting of the International Union of Architects in Paris, which was, in Fuller’s own words, devoted to “applying the principles of science to solving the problems of humanity.”

Writer Guy Davenport met him in 1965 and described him thus:


In 1967, Fuller developed a concept for an offshore floating city named Triton City and published a report on the design the following year. Models of the city aroused the interest of President Lyndon B. Johnson who, after leaving office, had them placed in the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum.


After employing several Southern Illinois University Carbondale graduate students to rebuild his models following an apartment fire in the summer of 1959, Fuller was recruited by longtime friend Harold Cohen to serve as a research professor of “design science exploration” at the institution’s School of Art and Design. According to SIU architecture professor Jon Davey, the position was “unlike most faculty appointments […] more a celebrity role than a teaching job” in which Fuller offered few courses and was only stipulated to spend two months per year on campus. Nevertheless, his time in Carbondale was “extremely productive,” and Fuller was promoted to university professor in 1968 and distinguished university professor in 1972.


In 1969, Fuller began the Otisco Project, named after its location in Otisco, New York. The project developed and demonstrated concrete spray with mesh-covered wireforms for producing large-scale, load-bearing spanning structures built on-site, without the use of pouring molds, other adjacent surfaces or hoisting. The initial method used a circular concrete footing in which anchor posts were set. Tubes cut to length and with ends flattened were then bolted together to form a duodeca-rhombicahedron (22-sided hemisphere) geodesic structure with spans ranging to 60 feet (18 m). The form was then draped with layers of ¼-inch wire mesh attached by twist ties. Concrete was sprayed onto the structure, building up a solid layer which, when cured, would support additional concrete to be added by a variety of traditional means. Fuller referred to these buildings as monolithic ferroconcrete geodesic domes. However, the tubular frame form proved problematic for setting windows and doors. It was replaced by an iron rebar set vertically in the concrete footing and then bent inward and welded in place to create the dome’s wireform structure and performed satisfactorily. Domes up to three stories tall built with this method proved to be remarkably strong. Other shapes such as cones, pyramids and arches proved equally adaptable.


In his 1970 book I Seem To Be a Verb, he wrote: “I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing—a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process—an integral function of the universe.”


From 1972 until retiring as university professor emeritus in 1975, Fuller held a joint appointment at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where he had designed the dome for the campus Religious Center in 1971. During this period, he also held a joint fellowship at a consortium of Philadelphia-area institutions, including the University of Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, Swarthmore College and the University City Science Center; as a result of this affiliation, the University of Pennsylvania appointed him university professor emeritus in 1975.


In 1976, Fuller was a key participant at UN Habitat I, the first UN forum on human settlements.


Fuller’s last filmed interview took place on June 21, 1983, in which he spoke at Norman Foster’s Royal Gold Medal for architecture ceremony. His speech can be watched in the archives of the AA School of Architecture, in which he spoke after Sir Robert Sainsbury’s introductory speech and Foster’s keynote address.

Fuller died on July 1, 1983, 11 days before his 88th birthday. During the period leading up to his death, his wife had been lying comatose in a Los Angeles hospital, dying of cancer. It was while visiting her there that he exclaimed, at a certain point: “She is squeezing my hand!” He then stood up, suffered a heart attack, and died an hour later, at age 87. His wife of 66 years died 36 hours later. They are buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


On July 12, 2004, the United States Post Office released a new commemorative stamp honoring R. Buckminster Fuller on the 50th anniversary of his patent for the geodesic dome and by the occasion of his 109th birthday. The stamp’s design replicated the January 10, 1964 cover of Time Magazine.


In June 2008, the Whitney Museum of American Art presented “Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe”, the most comprehensive retrospective to date of his work and ideas. The exhibition traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago in 2009. It presented a combination of models, sketches, and other artifacts, representing six decades of the artist’s integrated approach to housing, transportation, communication, and cartography. It also featured the extensive connections with Chicago from his years spent living, teaching, and working in the city.


In 2009, a number of US companies decided to repackage spherical magnets and sell them as toys. One company, Maxfield & Oberton, told The New York Times that they saw the product on YouTube and decided to repackage them as “Buckyballs”, because the magnets could self-form and hold together in shapes reminiscent of the Fuller inspired buckyballs. The buckyball toy launched at New York International Gift Fair in 2009 and sold in the hundreds of thousands, but by 2010 began to experience problems with toy safety issues and the company was forced to recall the packages that were labelled as toys.


The House of Tomorrow, is a 2017 American independent drama film written and directed by Peter Livolsi, based on Peter Bognanni’s 2010 novel of the same name, featuring Asa Butterfield, Alex Wolff, Nick Offerman, Maude Apatow, and Ellen Burstyn. Burstyn’s character is obsessed by all things Buckminster Fuller providing retro-futurist tours of her geodesic home, including authentic video of Buckminster Fuller talking and sailing with Ellen Burstyn, who’d actually befriended him in real life.


Fuller was the subject of two documentary films: The World of Buckminster Fuller (1971) and Buckminster Fuller: Thinking Out Loud (1996). Additionally, filmmaker Sam Green and the band Yo La Tengo collaborated on a 2012 “live documentary” about Fuller, The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller.

In 2012, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art hosted “The Utopian Impulse” – a show about Buckminster Fuller’s influence in the Bay Area. Featured were concepts, inventions and designs for creating “free energy” from natural forces, and for sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. The show ran January through July.


Fuller is briefly mentioned in the 2014 superhero film, X-Men: Days of Future Past, when Kitty Pryde is giving a lecture to a group of students regarding utopian architecture.


Robert Kiyosaki’s 2015 book Second Chance is largely about Kiyosaki’s interactions with Fuller, and Fuller’s unusual final book Grunch of Giants.

Upcoming Birthday

Currently, Buckminster Fuller is 126 years, 4 months and 20 days old. Buckminster Fuller will celebrate 127th birthday on a Tuesday 12th of July 2022.

Find out about Buckminster Fuller birthday activities in timeline view here.

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