R. Buckminster Fuller – Ford Hall Forum Lecture – October 1, 1972 – National Public Radio – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
R. Buckminster Fuller, a name which may not ring many bells to some, but who was an innovator, thinker, inventor, philosopher and Renaissance Man.
He styled his name as R. Buckminster Fuller in his writings, publishing more than 30 books and coining or popularizing such terms as “Spaceship Earth”, “Dymaxion” (e.g., Dymaxion house, Dymaxion car, Dymaxion map), “ephemeralization”, “synergetics”, and “tensegrity”.
Fuller developed numerous inventions, mainly architectural designs, and popularized the widely known geodesic dome; carbon molecules known as fullerenes were later named by scientists for their structural and mathematical resemblance to geodesic spheres. He also served as the second World President of Mensa International from 1974 to 1983.
Fuller was most famous for his lattice shell structures – geodesic domes, which have been used as parts of military radar stations, civic buildings, environmental protest camps and exhibition attractions. An examination of the geodesic design by Walther Bauersfeld for the Zeiss-Planetarium, built some 28 years prior to Fuller’s work, reveals that Fuller’s Geodesic Dome patent (U.S. 2,682,235; awarded in 1954) is the same design as Bauersfeld’s.
Their construction is based on extending some basic principles to build simple “tensegrity” structures (tetrahedron, octahedron, and the closest packing of spheres), making them lightweight and stable. The geodesic dome was a result of Fuller’s exploration of nature’s constructing principles to find design solutions. The Fuller Dome is referenced in the Hugo Award-winning novel Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner, in which a geodesic dome is said to cover the entire island of Manhattan, and it floats on air due to the hot-air balloon effect of the large air-mass under the dome (and perhaps its construction of lightweight materials).
Buckminster Fuller spoke and wrote in a unique style and said it was important to describe the world as accurately as possible. Fuller often created long run-on sentences and used unusual compound words (omniwell-informed, intertransformative, omni-interaccommodative, omniself-regenerative) as well as terms he himself invented.
Fuller used the word Universe without the definite or indefinite articles (the or a) and always capitalized the word. Fuller wrote that “by Universe I mean: the aggregate of all humanity’s consciously apprehended and communicated (to self or others) Experiences”.
The words “down” and “up”, according to Fuller, are awkward in that they refer to a planar concept of direction inconsistent with human experience. The words “in” and “out” should be used instead, he argued, because they better describe an object’s relation to a gravitational center, the Earth. “I suggest to audiences that they say, ‘I’m going “outstairs” and “instairs.”‘ At first that sounds strange to them; They all laugh about it. But if they try saying in and out for a few days in fun, they find themselves beginning to realize that they are indeed going inward and outward in respect to the center of Earth, which is our Spaceship Earth. And for the first time they begin to feel real ‘reality.'”
“World-around” is a term coined by Fuller to replace “worldwide”. The general belief in a flat Earth died out in classical antiquity, so using “wide” is an anachronism when referring to the surface of the Earth—a spheroidal surface has area and encloses a volume but has no width. Fuller held that unthinking use of obsolete scientific ideas detracts from and misleads intuition. Other neologisms collectively invented by the Fuller family, according to Allegra Fuller Snyder, are the terms “sunsight” and “sunclipse”, replacing “sunrise” and “sunset” to overturn the geocentric bias of most pre-Copernican celestial mechanics.
Fuller also invented the word “livingry,” as opposed to weaponry (or “killingry”), to mean that which is in support of all human, plant, and Earth life. “The architectural profession—civil, naval, aeronautical, and astronautical—has always been the place where the most competent thinking is conducted regarding livingry, as opposed to weaponry.”
As well as contributing significantly to the development of tensegrity technology, Fuller invented the term “tensegrity”, a portmanteau of “tensional integrity”. “Tensegrity describes a structural-relationship principle in which structural shape is guaranteed by the finitely closed, comprehensively continuous, tensional behaviors of the system and not by the discontinuous and exclusively local compressional member behaviors. Tensegrity provides the ability to yield increasingly without ultimately breaking or coming asunder.”
“Dymaxion” is a portmanteau of “dynamic maximum tension”. It was invented around 1929 by two admen at Marshall Field’s department store in Chicago to describe Fuller’s concept house, which was shown as part of a house of the future store display. They created the term utilizing three words that Fuller used repeatedly to describe his design – dynamic, maximum, and tension.
Fuller also helped to popularize the concept of Spaceship Earth: “The most important fact about Spaceship Earth: an instruction manual didn’t come with it.”
If you’ve never heard him before, here is your chance, by way of a Ford Hall Forum Lecture, given on October 1, 1972 and broadcast by NPR.