Talk:Buckminster Fuller/Archive 1

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Archive 1 Archive 2

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I think we can exclude the 47 honorary doctorates from his achievement. Honorary Doctorates are a recognition of achievement (or large donations), but are, specifically, not earned degrees.

Two points: Can someone make the picture: a) Less huge b) Labelled (wtf is it?)

I removed it, since it was obscenely large, and also on an external server. It was a picture of a buckyball, so it was on the wrong page anyway.
Zundark, 2001-08-16

Was he really a Unitarian? --Anon.

Not precisely. His views and beliefs were fairly close to what we'd term "Unitarian", but I'm not sure he used that term to describe himself. He came from a strong Transcendentalist background, and his (great?) aunt, Margaret Fuller was a well-known writer in this area. Bucky often spoke of "Universe" (with a capital "U") as a pronoun, and spoke of it as others might use the term "God" or "Spirit" or "Great Energy" or the like. --PatrickSalsbury --- I'm a bit of a fuller fanatic: do you think external links to the patent office for his inventions might be a good idea Two16

Yes, I think that's a great idea. --DavidCary 01:26, 30 November 2005 (UTC)


no mention of fullerine ? qqq You mean fullerene. -- Heron

In my NPOV edit, I've deleted the statement, "Many of Fuller's designs met resistance from purely profit-driven corporations, whose destructive legacies he would spend the next fifty years fighting."

I'm not opposed to saying he was opposed by corporations, but to make these kind of statements needs some stronger referential evidence (what corporation? what legacies?) Plus, really, in no context, I think, are the phrases "purely profit-driven" and "destructive legacies" appropriate here. If this goes a couple of days without any objection, I promise to replace my deletion with a referenced and qualified statement about Fuller's run-ins with corporations.

However, I'm willing to discuss and change my mind - that's why Talk's here, after all! --ObscureAuthor 13:56, 29 Aug 2003 (UTC)

Anyone know what this is about [1] ? Dori | Talk 00:39, Jul 15, 2004 (UTC)

Here is the USPS press release about the stamp: [2] and here is the item on the USPS on-line store: [3] Redjar 13:13, 15 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Yes - he was honoured with having a commemorative stamp released on On July 12, 2004 by the United States Post Office on the 50th anniversary of his patent for the geodesic dome and on the occasion of his 109th birthday. Bruce, aka Agendum | Talk 20:47, 11 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Anyone else think it's strange that it mentions his daughter and wife in ways that make it seem as though they were highly important to him, yet info about them, such as birth/marriage, or about their relationships, isn't included? I would add, but i don't know any more about him than this article. Xyzzyva 01:28, Dec 3, 2004 (UTC)

The point included about Fuller having received 50 honorary doctorates strains credulity -- even in the case of aman who succeeded as an inventor, was accepted into academia without graduating with any four-year degree, and wrote and lectured. I have no doubt about Fuller's accomplishments, but the statement about so many honorary doctorates does raise my incredulity. On what basis is this bit of info given? - J.R.

It might sound surprising, but it is probably true or there abouts. A quick google search shows people quoting a range of different figures, but the Buckminster Fuller Institute suggests 47 honorary degrees.
Particlularly in America, the point about honorary degrees is that they are not really for the benefit of the recipients. They are really there to add spice to the degree ceremony, providing some extra interest for the parents patiently waiting for their Johnie's moment. More particularly, most universities today run very lucrative alumni programs, and the only reason for the alumni to sit through the ceremony is to see who's who of famous people getting honorary degrees. As such, to be offered an honorary degree, the most important thing is to have done something which makes you a household name.
The second most important thing, is to already have been given an honorary degree. Most of the major colleges check the list of last year's honorary degrees from other colleges when coming up with ideas for who to invite this year. Once you are sufficiently famous, it is quite feasible to pick up 5-10 honorary degrees a year until you run out of universities - the limit becomes your willingness to travel to the less famous universities. The record is apparently held by Theodore Hesburgh who has 150 honorary degrees. -- Solipsist 20:39, 2 Jan 2005 (UTC)

--- In Critical Path, Fuller gives the reason for Alexandra's death as polio + spinal meningitis. I'm going to change the 'pneumonia' explanation accordingly. Katzenjammer 16:26, 19 July 2006 (UTC)


This is a great article but there are no images of Buckminster himself! I feel that perhaps a photograph of the man should be included, alongside the illustration on the stamp. What do you think? Zeta 06:10, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

I'm adding a "reqphoto" box to the top of this page to emphasize this excellent point. Kblakes 04:14, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

The Bates College Doctorate Degree

To the biographical portion of the article was added: "Later in life, Fuller received a Sc.D. from Bates College in 1969." Was this a degree Fuller applied for? If so, did he write and defend a dissertation? Or was it one of his honorary degrees?

This needs to be specified. Earned degrees are usually more highly regarded than honorary ones.

This article has lots of good information, but I think it lacks any mention of the overarching theme that Fuller himself gave to his life. I have added an introduction that, I think, delivers this perspective, including the controversy that surrounds Fuller. (Given the length of the article, an introduction is warranted anyway according to Wikipedia's guidelines.)

Minor nitpick: The second sentence of the current introduction seems superfluous to me: Mentioning that he was a professor at Southern Illinois University seems not that important, given the fifty-odd honorary doctorates he received elsewhere. Also, the assertion that he was a "prolific writer" violates NPOV, since it is not uncontroversial. That he was simply a writer is implied, I think, by everything else that is said about him.

I also agree with others that the ordering of the main sections should be reworked. I would suggest starting with biography, then Fuller's philosophy and world-view, then his practical inventions.

The list of his inventions at the end of the article also seems redundant to me, this is all mentioned in the earlier paragraphs already, so I would vote to remove it.

If I don't hear any objections, I will try and restructure the article as outlined. Renegade Lisp 10:59, 26 December 2005 (UTC)

I have no real objections to the main line of your thinking. I disagree on one point, though: That Fuller was a professor at Southern Illinois University is signifiant, because even with many (I believe the number may be 47, not certain) honorary doctorates, there was a "bandwagon" enthusiasm for Fuller in the late 1960s and early '70s — so some people today dismiss him as a dreamer and mere cult figure. That he actually educated students is, I think, important. That some of his projects bore fruit is also important, although I feel the way the article is already written (to show his conceptual non sequitors and failures) balances this, so we do get an overall NPOV.
NPOV is important, but if we feel that Fuller is to be paid any attention (though certainly not worshipped), it is important to convey that he did do something — including teach.
I understand your point, but I think that it is enough to mention Fuller's teaching further down in the article, not necessarily right in the introduction. If you feel different about it, feel free to add it back in, maybe the second paragraph would be good. -- Renegade Lisp 19:14, 16 January 2006 (UTC)
Renegade, in 1995 I interviewed Bill Perk, Professor Emeritus at SUIC, and FOB (friend of Bucky). This info comes from Perk. Fuller came on at SUIC under President Delyte Morris in 1959 in a loose arrangement in which Fuller spent little time on campus and few traditional responsibilities. When Morris was excused in 1970, Fuller lost the position. Fuller did plenty in his life, and educated lots of students, but did not perform regular teaching duties. --Lockley 22:32, 16 January 2006 (UTC)
I don't believe it's true that he "did not perform regular teaching", since I once worked with one of the people who had studied with him. What he didn't do was lecture: he held regular, intensive seminars. (My erstwhile co-worker felt he'd learned more from Bucky than from any other prof.) Katzenjammer 16:15, 19 July 2006 (UTC)

As I understand, Southern Illinois was one of Bucky's most important bases of operations, also where several of his books were published. I believe that it does warrant inclusion in the introduction.
I have more serious concerns about the changes that were made to this article in the past. It is stated above that calling Bucky a "prolific" writer violates NPOV. That's ridiculous: The adjective "prolific" does not impose a value judgement, it only specifies that he produced an incredible quantity of writing. I don't think anyone could argue with that statement.
I also think that the list of Bucky's inventions should be reinstated. It would be quite useful. Readers looking for a quick synopsis of his quite overwhelming career might appreciate finding a straightforward list at the bottom of the page.
One more thing: We should all be really careful about believing Bucky's own story about himself. The first step towards understanding the history of his activity will be to move beyond his autobiographical ideas. At the moment, the first paragraph rather dangerously takes these as given. Thanks --Fixifex 16:17, 15 June 2007 (UTC)

Shouldn't that be "R. Buckminster Fuller"? That's the way his name always appeared (even on the stamp illustrating this article). Being another person that goes by their middle name, I guess I'm senstive to the common "first initial dropping syndrome" that afflicts many people. ;-)

I agree. Move to R. Buckminster Fuller. Wikipedia:Requested_moves. --DavidCary 01:26, 30 November 2005 (UTC)

No, best to leave it where it is. We should include a discussion of the "R. Buckminster Fuller" signature and preference, but the article itself should be at the title that most editors would guess. I checked five links on the 'What links here' list and only one (pattern) would have naturally linked from R. Buckminster Fuller. There are 22 links which are redirects via R. Buckminster Fuller and Richard Buckminster Fuller, but that is only 22 out of 220 links. -- Solipsist 06:55, 30 November 2005 (UTC)

Regarding the last sentence: "was friends with" is a very awkward phrase...should be replaced.


I cut this out of the article: all solids constructed of regular polygons, except the icosahedron, have a volume that is an integral number of unit-tetrahedrons.

Really? It's not even true for all all Platonic solids, much less all Archimedean solids and Johnson solids.

The area of a unit-radius sphere is almost exactly 29 unit triangles ( 29.02 ...).

My cheat-sheet says (is there an approprate wikipedia article for this table ?)

 Volume (in unit tetras)
 1         tetrahedron with edge length 1
 3         cube with face diagonal 1
 4         octahedron with edge length 1
 6*sqrt(3)      cube with edge length 1
 sqrt(10)*3/2   icosahedron with edge length 1
 sqrt(10)*5/2   dodecahedron with edge length 1
 8*π*sqrt(3)   sphere with radius 1
 (someone should double-check these numbers)

Could we replace that statement with something more interesting than "Octahedrons with integral edge length and cubes with integral diagonal length have a volume that is an integral number of unit tetrahedrons" ?

--DavidCary 20:09, 25 Jan 2005 (UTC)

From the appendices of H.S.M. Coxeter's Regular Polytopes, the volumes of regular polyhedra with edge length 1:

 tetrahedron   √2 / 12
 octahedron    √2 / 3
 cube          1
 icosahedron   5 τ2 / 6
 dodecahedron  √5 τ4 / 2

Multiplying these by 12/√2 gives

 tetrahedron   1
 octahedron    4
 cube          6 √2
 icosahedron   5 √2 τ2
 dodecahedron  3 √10 τ4

--Anton Sherwood 03:13, 2 January 2006 (UTC)

Biography Gaps

There are some significant gaps in the biographical aspect of this article: Obviously, Fuller was an unconventional learner -- at odds with university life after high school, obviously a self-directed, successful "autodidact" -- but how did he learn advanced math? In some of his later writings, he stresses the importance of mathematics and of the math-based info utilized by engineers and designers. But what happened after he was twice dismissed from Harvard? (I'm referring to Fuller's acquiring the knowledge and skills of an engineer.)

Also, I would suggest we removed the bit about all the honorary doctorates until substantiation is brought forward. I have little doubt that Fuller may have been awarded numerous honorary degrees, including doctorates, but who kept count? How do we know what is accurate? The info included now does not successfully firm up the glories of R.B.F.'s mature years; rather, it simply provokes question about the quality of the article.

Before you get your briefs tied in a knot about substantiating the claims about honorary degrees, think about what kind of research it would take to really document it. No one but the Buckminster Fuller archive at Stanford can possibly state with any degree of certainty how many degrees he received from some many different instititions. The true figure is probably not accessible, but citing a source would be helpful.Fixifex 16:28, 15 June 2007 (UTC)


I agree, his bio is really fishy; it completely fails to mention his attendance at the US Naval Academy. -- 23:14, 23 August 2005 (UTC)


Between the death of his daughter and his engagement at black mountain college are some 20 years where he did lots of stuff, all not mentioned here.

That's probably the case. It would be good to know what some of that "stuff" was. On the other hand, the article's introduction has this sentence: "He also created a large number of inventions, mostly in the fields of design and architecture, the best-known of which is the geodesic dome." But most book-length treatments of Fuller's life that I've read do not really explain what this "large number of inventions" consisted of. Does anyone know? Or is the sentence, from the article's intro, erroneous?
I'm pretty sure it is right. It's been a long time since I was reading about Fuller, but "large number of inventions" rings true. --maru (talk) contribs 22:42, 4 May 2006 (UTC)


May I draw your attention to this article, now in AfD at Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Synergetics, thanks. Alf melmac 20:23, 14 September 2005 (UTC)

Buckminster Fuller's ideas -- for yesterday?

I get the impression that Fuller's career didn't lead to much of long-term importance. Geodesic domes haven't revolutionized architecture; nobody with any power or authority advocates taking care of "100% of humanity" through "design science"; we still don't have a good measure of the state of the world's resources despite Fuller's invention of the World Game (just look at the debate and conflicting propaganda about whether we have reached Peak Oil or not); and we certainly haven't "ephemeralized" much of our material culture, with the trend towards SUV's, McMansions, mega shopping centers and increasingly supersized human bodies.

Indeed, from an inventing standpoint people would do better to study Genrich Altshuller's Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (Russian acronym TRIZ) than Fuller's word-salads about "synergetics." Altshuller and his students have developed something nonobviously true but genuinely useful that others can learn to apply to new problems, unlike the case with Fuller's weird, neoplatonic treatises.

/me listens interestedly and awaits the revelation of how exactly this relates to the article. --Maru (talk) Contribs 22:27, 7 November 2005 (UTC)
On the contrary, SUVs, McMansions and mega shopping centers are all examples of ephemeralization. Fuller (as I read him) was all about bigger is better. Mega shopping centers are a perfect example. Millions of square feet of retailing area under a single roof with minimized construction costs and energy costs PER SQUARE FOOT. Bucky would have argued that we should put our housing and work places in them as well. Similarly, Fuller was all about large scale manufacture of homes. What's the criticism of McMansions? Large scale production of homes. SUVs are a bit tougher. I suspect, however, if you look at the utility of SUV's PER POUND versus say luxury cars of the 60's (e.g. Cadillac Coupe de Ville), you would find today's behemouths have more passenger/cargo space, better mileage, and lower pollution than their earlier counterparts.--Nowa 01:18, 5 December 2005 (UTC)
I don't think I've been able to assess American civilization (at this point, early 21st century) well enough to say whether, in general, we are following a Fullerseque line or not. But would not our extreme dependence on individual automobiles (and many persons own several), rather than the more European utilization of passenger trains and omnibuses, be anti-ephemeralization? Is this American or North American situation not a case of "doing more with more"?
True to what I said at the start, though, I can't say that this one aspect of our life is characteristic of all or most of it.
Some people believe Americans will gradually mature and ephemeralize their personal-transport habits. If that happens, we could still see Fuller's idea in this regard as an idea for today and the future. If... - Tanemon
I would argue that Americans, as well as many other people in the world, are rapidly ephemeralizing their trasportation means by virtue of the Internet. More and more Americans (including myself) are working from home and not commuting. I may own two cars and one may be a SUV, but I put on 1/2 the mileage I used to when I had to commute to work everyday. Perhaps the epitomy of ephermeralization via the Internet is the trend towards round the world outsourcing. --Nowa 17:14, 5 December 2005 (UTC)
Thanks, Nowa. I have a question for you - please regard it as straightforward, and not rhetorical (in other words, in terms of general realities I honsestly don't "know the answer" on this): How many highways do you know of now that are less crowded or congested these days than 10 or 15 years ago? (Not referring to ones that have been supplanted by freeway development.) - Tanemon
None that I know of from my personal experience. There has been a continuous increase in highway passenger miles of about 1 - 3% per year since at least 1985. (See Statistical Abstract of the US [4]). Nonetheless, the total percent of US GDP devoted to all forms of transporation has dropped from 12.5% in 1980 to 10.6% in 1995. I would argue that this suggests that transporation as a whole is being ephemeralized while at the same time roads are getting more crowded.--Nowa 22:22, 5 December 2005 (UTC)

Incidentally, ephemeralization is a word made up by Bucky to describe what has been a human activity since the dawn of time. He didn't invent it and I don't think any really disputes that it is constatly happening. Bucky's contribution was to try to raise awareness that humankind now (as of 1930) has the capability of ephemeralizing to the extent that we are all effecively billionares. This is where the real debate is. We constantly have the mind set that there is not enough to go around. Bucky said nonsense and tried by writing and demonstration to show that the possibilities were limitless. In my mind what was important about his innovations was not that they ultimately had commercial success, but rather that they provided inspiriation of what was possible. Take a look at a video of the dymaxion car, for example. [5] Then look at it again, but pay attention to the other cars of the time to appreciate how radical it was. Bucky was trying to show what was possible. Now compare it again to a modern minivan. [6] and you can see he was right.

In a certain sense Bucky really was for yesterday, now that it's 50 years later. What I really haven't seen is who now has a compelling vision of our future--Nowa 23:37, 5 December 2005 (UTC)

Zerzan. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 10:23, 17 December 2006 (UTC).
It seems to me as if bucky always thought in the future, thats quite an intriguing habit.

LOL Ephemeralization as human activity since the dawn of time...civilization has been around for a few thousand years, fully developed humans have been around for tens of thousands. It sure is fun and easy to believe all the stuff Fuller said, when you completely limit your vision to the first world. "Four Billion Billionaires", what a joke! Our standard of living relies on the disenfranchisement of most of the rest of the race; Civilization, Progress, Technology, etc...all rely on the conversion of nature to a set of standing resources, and the relegation of some regions to the service of other regions. NATURE DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY AND ECOSYSTEMS ARE COLLAPSING BECAUSE OF IT.

You just repeat the criticism of Thomas Malthus, who stated that there isn't enough for everyone to go around and that it will be either you or me to survive, not both of us. Now Bucky argued against that and actually developed theories and artifacts which showed his assumptions to be true. -- 09:24, 13 September 2007 (UTC)


This article seems to me to be too positive about Fuller's contributions, and maybe too cloesly drawn from the Buckminster Fuller Institute (which obviously is really pro-Fuller). I don't know much about architecture, but I've heard that Fuller's domes are considered to be notorious for leaking and low durability. Could we get some criticism from architectural sources in this article? As has been mentioned, his biography should be filled in more. It also seems to be standard Wikpedia style for biographies to come first in the article.

-I belive there is plenty of critisism of using geodesic domes as housing(including leaking), but this is all stated in the geodesic dome section. There is also mention of the Dymaxion House not being waterproof(the last standing example in Henry Ford's Museum), but this is due to a lack of the rain gutter system beneath the roof since those workers whom were to make it had already been fired.

If the geodesic domes or the dymaxion houses are waterproof or not is really not that important. Important is the new solution and the geodesic dome surely has an impact on architecture and engineering. You just dont have to assume architects now will build 1:1 bucky's domes, but they may will use the principles of the geodesic dome.


Does anybody have any data on Fuller's notion of what I recall was known as "tergersivity", which as best I remember it was a structural scheme demonstrated by a "ball" made of wires strung around pegs, where none of the pegs were in contact.

This was mentioned in David Macaulay's BUILDING BIG TV series / book, which simultaneously praised Fuller's ingenuity while labelling him a bit of a flimflam man. According to BUILDING BIG, one of his students came up with the idea, and Fuller patented it as his own.

You mean Tensegrity? — Omegatron 00:00, 5 December 2005 (UTC)
Here is a link to the patent [[7]]--Nowa 00:58, 5 December 2005 (UTC)

Requested move

It was requested that this article be renamed but there was no consensus for it be moved. Ian Manka Talk to me! 17:33, 17 June 2006 (UTC)

The following discussion is an archived debate of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the debate was No move. -- Kim van der Linde at venus 19:27, 12 July 2006 (UTC)

(Note: The foregoing was added to Wikipedia:Requested moves but with no place for the discussion to occur, so I'm providing that here. JamesMLane t c 21:52, 13 June 2006 (UTC))


Add *Support or *Oppose followed by an optional one-sentence explanation, then sign your opinion with ~~~~
  • Oppose. The naming convention isn't to use the formal name, but to use the most common name, such as Bill Clinton. JamesMLane t c 21:52, 13 June 2006 (UTC)
  • Oppose per James. --maru (talk) contribs 00:25, 14 June 2006 (UTC)
  • Support The common name *is* R. Buckminster Fuller Djg2006 04:08, 15 June 2006 (UTC)


Add any additional comments
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the debate. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

Bibliography needs work

I personally don't mind the annotated biliography of secondary sources. In the case of this article, I believe it's helpful. But as of now, it lacks any consistency of style. Authors are sometimes last name first, first name second - and sometimes the other way around. Etc.

The work that's gone into assembling the various books about Fuller and his work is commendable. Let's conserve it, not lose it.

Can we retain the annotations, but bring some order to the biblio?Joel Russ 15:44, 29 September 2006 (UTC)

Assessment comment

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Buckminster Fuller/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

I don't see why this is not a featured article. CQ 19:43, 19 August 2006 (UTC)

Last edited at 19:43, 19 August 2006 (UTC). Substituted at 08:51, 19 April 2016 (UTC)