Bucky (About Richard Buckminster Fuller)

By :  Julia Tyack

R. Buckminster Fuller was a renowned 20th century inventor and visionary, dedicating his life to making the world work for all of humanity.  Fuller operated as a practical philosopher who demonstrated his ideas as inventions that he called “artifacts.”  He did not limit himself to one field but worked as a ‘comprehensive anticipatory design scientist’ to solve global problems surrounding housing, shelter, transportation, education, energy, ecological destruction, and poverty.  Throughout the course of his life Fuller held 28 patents, authored 28 books, received 47 honorary degrees.  And while his most well know artifact, the geodesic dome, has been produced over 300,000 times worldwide, Fuller’s true impact on the world today can be found in his continued influence upon generations of designers, architects, scientists and artists working to create a more sustainable planet. (Introduction from the Buckminster Fuller Institute Web Site – https://bfi.org/about-fuller)

When the nineteenth century had turned ninety-five years old on the 12th July Caroline Wolcott Andrews presented to the world her first born son.  Caroline insisted her son be named Richard after his father but for the rest of  the boy’s life he was called Bucky.  Bucky’s parents lived in the town of Milton where the news of his birth spread fast through the community.  Father, Richard Buckmister Fuller had business connections as a leather and tea merchant, as well the youthful Richard and Caroline were  involved in many aspects of life in the Milton community.  Both parents participated in activism and public service.  Bucky had an adoring older sister Caroline who was three years of age at the time of his birth.  In turn when Bucky was three years of age he was joined by baby brother Wolcott Fuller.  At ten years of age Bucky’s little sister Rosamond Fuller joined the family amused them with her antics.  Bucky and his siblings eagerly listened to his father tell stories of his great-aunt the feminist writer and publisher Margaret Fuller and his uncle US Supreme Court Justice Melville W. Fuller.

The family went on frequent excursions to Bear Island.  Bucky loved these family excursions.  He would climb the rocky outcrop to the lighthouse and watch dolphin, whales or sea birds by the hour.  Other days Bucky would visit the harbor and observe with great interest boat maintenance or construction.   Happy childhood years flew by and soon Bucky found himself in Milton Academy for high-school. Bucky’s life’s journey was on track with a supporting family who were  conscious of the reward of service for a better world. His mother Caroline and father Richard had great aspirations for Bucky of which he was well aware.

By university years the youthful Bucky started to struggle to make sense of a world that seemed at odds.  The more he studied conventional wisdom the more troubled he became.  Bucky entered Harvard University in 1913 and wrestled with the apparent dichotomy in his understanding until 1915 when his unconventional wisdom and behavior had him dismissed.  During his time at Harvard he would drown his worries by drinking and threw a big party for the students blowing his university fees for the next year.

Army service was a welcome relief from what for Bucky was stifling constraints on his creativity at Harvard.  His service was in the Navy during WWI.

Bucky’s spirits soared when he fell in love with Anne Hewlett and married her a month after her 21st Birthday; The wedding day was the  July 12, 1917 which was Bucky’s 22nd birthday.  Two years later Bucky felt his life was full and blessed with the arrival of a little daughter Alexandra.  Alexandra became the pride and joy of Bucky’s life until she contracted polio, dying of meningitis and pneumonia just before her fourth birthday. Bucky blamed himself for her death believing that the cold, damp, dark living quarters were responsible for the illness that claimed her life.  This drove Bucky to involve himself in better design housing to save other children from such a fate.  His extended family set up the company Stockade  to produce houses from his designs . Bucky’s state of mind remained unsettled and he suffered high anxiety.  He drowned his sorrows in torrid extramarital romance that collapsed nine years after Alexandra’s death.

Bucky’s life spiraled down, falling apart in a dark cloud of depression robbing him of any ray of light or happiness.  Bucky turned to drink,  and friends commented that he drank like a fish.  Life went from bad to worse with the financial failure of Stockade in 1927.   This same year another daughter Allegra Fuller Snyder arrived.  At the age of 32 Fuller lost his job as president of the family company Stockade with no financial savings to fall back upon.  The birth of Allegra added to the financial challenges.  During the autumn of 1927 Fuller tells us this story: “I contemplated suicide, sensing I was a complete failure and the only way out for my family was for them to collect my life insurance payments. This year 1927 was the pivotal year in my life.  I stood at the cross road between life and death.  I told myself that I was a ne’er-do-well, twice ejected from Harvard, a failure in business, a heavy drinker, responsible for my daughter’s death and the world didn’t need me.  So as was my custom during these years of depression to walk and walk the streets of Chicago, I trudged to the Chicago lakefront and stood there on a cliff, contemplating suicide. Poised to jump, seconds before the final leap, an inner voice interrupted, telling me that I had a mission to discover great truths, all for the good of humanity. . I felt suspended several feet above the ground enclosed in a white sphere of light.  This light was all accepting, unconditional love like no love I’d ever experienced on earth.  A voice spoke directly in my mind and declared: “From now on you need never await temporal attestation to your thought.  You have the truth.  You do not have the right to eliminate yourself.  You do not belong to you.  You belong to the Universe and to unconditional love.  Your significance will remain forever obscure to you, but you may assume that you are fulfilling your role if you apply yourself to converting your experiences to the highest advantage of others.”  Bucky tells us, “I experienced a profound incident which would provide direction and purpose for my life.”  Fuller later shared his new insights with his good friend Einstein.  “Albert, when we know who we are it frees us as human-beings to an unlimited creative potential.  We create even more useful technology, better medicine, better housing, better living standards which lead to improved health and longevity.  I understood that to exist as a human being is an unimaginable win.  It became evident to me that our core, essential nature or authentic self being is love.  Unconditional love progresses us toward something better.  Albert, I agree with you that technology is a secular savior to be used for human progress.  As you have said, ‘Whatever the ongoing discovery that emerges from such disciplines as physics, we know enough to conclude that there is no scarcity except the human mind limits itself.  We can progress toward a better condition.’  Another thing Albert, it is a self-evident truth that progress makes us more compassionate and creative.  Society expresses this in a desire to better life.  Yes! a better life that creates abundance and wealth to improve all life forms.  One more profound insight Albert – human consciousness may be the most fundamentally real thing, or the only “real” thing in all the cosmos.  This understanding amazes me and I understand that human consciousness is the most valued of all that exists in the human domain.  Human consciousness in essence is Ultimate Good incarnated in all of us.  Such consciousness makes humanity the wonder of the cosmos.”