20th Century Genius: Buckminster Fuller

Essay by krrf October 2004

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Although not a household name, Buckminster Fuller is an important icon of the 20th century. Fuller can be best summed up as "an architect, designer, engineer, poet, philosopher, author and global iconoclast" ("Buckminster Fuller: Thinking out loud,"2004). Considered by many of his contemporaries to be a little crazy, his revolutionary ideas and inventions paved a path of future thinking that is still important today.

Heralded as a genius near the end of his life, things were not always so for Buckminster Fuller. In 1927, Fuller was at a low point in his life. He has just suffered the death of his daughter, had no job or savings, and was suicidal and alcoholic (Feldman, 2004). While contemplating suicide, Fuller had a Shakespearian moment; he would devote his life to bettering mankind through a "design revolution"("Who is Buckminster Fuller," 2004). At this moment Fuller decided to conduct "an experiment to discover what the little, penniless, unknown individual might be able to do effectively on behalf of all humanity" ("Who is Buckminster Fuller," 2004).

To understand how Fuller was able to make this dramatic change and become an asset to humanity, we need to know a little more about the man himself. Fuller was born in 1895 at the beginning of the age of Modernism. A brilliant mathematician, Fuller attended Harvard from 1913 through 1915; Fuller never graduated with a degree from Harvard, although he received numerous honorary degrees from many institutions. Fuller did not follow the normal pattern of thought for the time, he "rejected the established religious and political notions of the past and adhered to an idealistic system of thought based on the essential unity of the natural world and the use of experiment and intuition as a means of understanding it" (Applewhite, 2004).

Coupling his brilliant mind with his...