dymaxion

The Lost Inventions of Buckminster Fuller – Kindle Edition

Buckminster Fuller is widely known as the inventor of the geodesic dome, tensegrity, the Dymaxion Dwelling Unit and more. The Lost Inventions of Buckminster Fuller brings Fuller’s role in all of these discoveries into question, while presenting hard evidence that he is under-credited for many other remarkable inventions.

Trevor Blake (author of The Buckminster Fuller Bibliography) is a leading independent scholar on Fuller. Also found in this book are an analysis of geodesic dome integrity when subject to earthquakes, the influence on Fuller by Technocracy Incorporated, the influence of Fuller on the television program Lost, and much more.

US$ 1.99.

Buckminster Fuller Bibliography – Kindle Edition

The Buckminster Fuller Bibliography is the most complete and accurate bibliography of “Bucky” Fuller to date. Excellent tool for tracking Fuller’s trajectory, and for finding rare titles in the field for your own collection. Authored by Trevor Blake of synchronofile.com, an independent resource on Fuller consulted around the world. Updated for this Kindle edition.  US$ 1.99.

Fuller in Fashion

Fashion is design you wear, mobile and kinetic, including both tension and compression components.  Fashion is the valve between the environment (everything except you) and the universe (everything including you).  R. Buckminster Fuller’s influence on fashion is an undocumented parallel to his investigation into design.

☂ Fuller was attentive to his appearance. In Your Private Sky (Baden: Lars Muller Publishers 1999), Fuller is quoted as saying:

I decided to make a complete experiment of peeling off from society in general, and started wearing T-shirts which nobody was doing then, went about without a hat and in sneakers – absolutely comfortable clothes. Then when people started getting interested in my Dymaxion House, very nice people with influence, and they’d say, “l’d like to give a dinner party for you” and so forth, I would show up in khaki pants and they’d be very shocked. And when Mrs. John Alden Carpenter, head of the Arts Council in Chicago, gave a beautiful dinner party, I showed up and rudely announced, “I don’t eat that kind of food,” and was in every way obnoxious. l was putting self and comfort ahead of my Dymaxion House, and I said, “You’re not allowed to do that. You must get over that. You must stop that looking eccentric, with everybody pointing at this guy.” So I decided the way to do that was to become the invisible man, and that means a bank clerk – so I put on a black suit, bank clerk’s clothing; then they would focus on what I was saying instead of my eccentricities. I said, “I must get rid of continually making too much of myself.”

Fuller also knew of the attraction of the nude. When he exhibited the Dymaxion House in the 1920s, he placed a nude doll in its bedroom.

Continuum Fashion is the source for this graphic showing one of a pair of irregular geodesic hemispheres…

The graphic is a glimpse into the mathematics of the N12, a bikini designed with a 3-D scanner and printed with a 3-D printer. Continuum writes:

The N12 bikini is the world’s first ready-to-wear, completely 3D-printed article of clothing. All of the pieces, closures included, are made directly by 3D printing and snap together without any sewing. N12 represents the beginning of what is possible for the near future. N12 is named for the material it’s made out of: Nylon 12. This solid nylon is created by the SLS 3D printing process. Shapeways calls this material “white, strong, and flexible”, because its strength allows it to bend without breaking when printed very thin. With a minimum wall thickness of .7 mm, it is possible to make working springs and almost thread-like connections. For a bikini, the nylon is beautifully functional because it is waterproof and remarkably comfortable when wet.

☂ “When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.” This quote is attributed to R. Buckminster Fuller but I cannot find the source. More significantly, the greatest online biographer of Fuller – Joe S. Moore at his incredible buckminster.info – also cannot place this quote. Can you?

☂ Photographer Moria Simmons and a friend went as “Buckminster Fuller and the Geodesic Dame” on Halloween 2008.  See Moria’s photograph here, and more of her photography (including a sneaky shot of the Dymaxion Car and the Fuller postage stamp) here. Could this be the same Moria who knitted a geodesic hat?

Laura Dawson is a fashion designer. She used a geodesic dome to exhibit her Fall 2009 collection. (Thanks to grunch.net).

☂ The Buckminster Fuller Institute sells handbags and if memory serves they have sold pins and t-shirts in the past.

☂ Colleen Coghlan designed an inflatable type-two two-frequency geodesic pillow dome garment. She writes: “The inflatable dress (or ‘Wearable Space’) is, as the name describes, a garment that inflates into a personal space to sleep, rest or play within.”

Read more about the Wearable Space at The Cool Hunter.

☂ Connie Chang Chinchio sells a pattern for a geodesic cardigan.

Life Magazine could have published a photograph of anyone assembling a Dymaxion Map in March 1943. They chose a contortionist in her circus uniform.

Fuller Houses by Federico Neder (Baden: Lars Muller Publishers 2008) includes several items of Fuller fashion. The color plates section in the rear of the book shows a lapel pin of the Dymaxion House, presumably sold in the Henry Ford Museum where the Dymaxion House is on display. Fuller Houses also includes a sketch of a Dymaxion Hat designed by Irene Sharaff.

☂ The umbrella is a favored icon at synchronofile because it is a portable relatively inexpensive dome shelter produced on the industrial level. There are endless variations to the umbrella, from a banker’s basic black to the LED umbrellas of the film Blade RunnerThe Bucky Bar was raised in February 2010.  It was a geodesic dome made up of umbrellas designed by DUS Architects as a spontaneous (and unauthorized) dance bar in Rotterdam.

☂ Hair stylists Andreas and Markus contributed a two-frequency type two geodesic sphere hair weave to a fashion shoot by Purebred Productions.

☂ Florida-based Emilie produces beaded jewelry informed by energetic-synergetic mathematics.

☂ My first tattoo, which I gave myself around 1989, is a geometric shape referencing the work of Buckminster Fuller. No photographs of my tattoos have ever been published.

☂This essay first published on the twelfth of July 2011, a day of great significance to Buckminster Fuller.

- Trevor Blake

Trevor Blake is the author of the Buckminster Fuller Bibliography, available at synchronofile.com

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011 domes, dymaxion, geodesic, maps, rbf, shelter, synchronofile

Synergetics Stew June 2011

The Buckminster Fuller Institute published the book Synergetic Stew: Explorations in Dymaxion Dining in 1982. Under this name, synchronofile.com publishes an irregular collection of brief notes relating to Buckminster Fuller.

You are Listening to Deep Thoughts is a simple mix of a gentle background image, a quiet ambient music track and a recording of a thoughtful public speaker. More often than not, the thoughtful public speaker is R. Buckminster Fuller.

☂ “Network Awesome is a platform for entertaining and interesting TV. We spotlight the best from the past to create something new for the future. In a sense it’s TV about TV but our wider intent is to show something about culture as a whole. This can manifest itself in a kids cartoon from 1973, an interview from 1948 or a movie from 1993 – We’re pretty open minded about what Network Awesome is and what it can be. It’s our commitment to provide you what we think is interesting and clever TV – hopefully you agree.” Video of R. Buckminster Fuller regularly appears on Network Awesome.

A Picture History of Shelter Systems is just what it says on the box. Founder Bob Gillis owns several key patents for modern camping tents that meet Fuller’s criterion of portability, tension rather than compression, curves and triangles rather than straight lines and 90-degree angles, industrial production and low cost. While there are many sculptures and models that use Kenneth Snelson’s tensegrity method, Gillis may be the only man to have created a tensegrity structure for habitation as Fuller advocated.

☂ On 3 July 1980 Fuller spoke as Visiting Consultant for Windstar in Snowmass Colorado USA. Co-founder of Windstar John Denver wrote a song for Fuller that year titled What One Man Can Do. A popular photograph from Fuller’s visit to Windstar shows him with the Dymaxion car and a Fly’s Eye dome. The Dymaxion Car was restored last year, and now the Fly’s Eye dome has also been restored. The dome will be on exhibit at Art Basel, Design Miami and Dacra, all located in Miami Beach Florida USA.

☂ As previously announced, D. W. Jacob’s play R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER: THE HISTORY (and mystery) OF THE UNIVERSE was performed 28 May – 4 July 2010 at the Arena Stage Crystal City in Washington, DC USA. Perhaps for the first time, scenes from the play are now online. See also this trailer from the Portland performance in 2008, and Jacob and Allegra Fuller-Snyder talking about the 2011 run here. I’m glad to have seen the play several times over, but I do hope it is filmed in full some day.

- Trevor Blake

Trevor Blake is the author of the Buckminster Fuller Bibliography, available at synchronofile.com

Sunday, June 19th, 2011 domes, dymaxion, rbf, shelter, synchronofile, video

R. Buckminster Fuller’s Influence on Science Fiction Films and Television

Valley Forge Dome

The Valley Forge dome.  Photograph by Trevor Blake

R. Buckminster Fuller’s influence on science fiction films and television during his lifetime (12 July 1895 – 1 July 1983).

First Spaceship on Venus
[Wikipedia] [IMDB] [youtube]
1960. Film. Directed by Kurt Maetzig. Based on the novel The Astronauts by Stanisław Lem. An international rocket crew finds geodesic domes on the planet Venus.

Earth II
[IMDB]
1971. Television. Directed by Tom Gries.  A space station makes a claim for independence from the Earth it orbits.  R. Buckminster Fuller is credited as the “Technical Advisor for Earth” in Earth II. Fuller’s Dymaxion Map is used to track orbiting satellites in an Earth-bound control room.

Slaughterhouse 5
[Wikipedia] [IMDB] [youtube]
1972. Film. Directed by George Roy Hill. Based on the novel Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Billy Pilgrim is kept in a geodesic dome in a zoo on the planet Tralfamadore.

Silent Running
[Wikipedia] [IMDB] [youtube]
1972. Film. Directed by Douglas Trumbull.  The spaceship Valley Forge includes several geodesic domes.

The Starlost
[Wikipedia] [IMDB] [youtube] [The Starlost: The Word]
22 September 1973 – 5 January 1974. Television. Directed by Leo Orenstein. Created by Harlan Ellison. Executive Producer was Douglas Trumbull of Silent Running.  A geodesic dome from the spaceship Valley Forge from Silent Running is re-used on the spaceship The Ark.

Battlestar Galactica
[Wikipedia] [IMDB] [Battlestar Wiki: Agro Ship]
September 17, 1978 – April 29, 1979. Television. Created by Glen A. Larson.
The geodesic dome from the spaceship Valley Forge from Silent Running which had been re-used on the spaceship The Ark in The Starlost is re-used once more on an Argo Ship. This dome is on exhibit at the EMP Science Fiction Museum between 23 October 2010 – 4 March 2012.

See also LOST Domes.

- Trevor Blake

Trevor Blake is the author of the Buckminster Fuller Bibliography, available at synchronofile.com

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011 art, books, domes, dymaxion, geodesic, maps, rbf, shelter, synchronofile, video, world game

Synergetics Stew January 2009

The Buckminster Fuller Institute published the book Synergetic Stew: Explorations in Dymaxion Dining in 1982.  Under this name, synchronofile.com publishes an irregular collection of brief notes relating to Buckminster Fuller.

BLDGBLOG writes about the myriahedral projection map of computer scientist Jack van Wijk (Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands).  “Making truly accurate maps of the world is difficult because it is mathematically impossible to flatten a sphere’s surface without distorting or cracking it. The new technique […] uses algorithms to ‘unfold’ and cut into the Earth’s surface in a way that minimizes distortion, and keeps the distracting effect of cutting into the map to a minimum.”  Compare van Wijk’s work with Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Map and with Butteryfly Map of Bernard Joseph Stanislaus Cahill.

☂ Speaking of Cahill, Gene Keyes has published a comparison of Cahill’s Butterfly Map and Fuller’s Dymaxion Map.  Gene was a student of Fuller’s at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. Nearly 40 years ago Gene wrote Bucky and Pick: Two Grand Designers of a World Without War. An Essay-Review of Robert Pickus (To End War) and R. Buckminster Fuller (Utopia or Oblivion).  Fuller sent a handwritten letter to Norman Cousins (editor of Saturday Review) urging Cousins publish the essay.  The essay has never been published – until now.

The Imaginary Foundation is selling an “All-Star Pattern Seeker Trading Cards pay tribute to 23 giants of pattern recognition – pathfinders and ideanauts whose shadows loom large across three millennia of discovery. This set of 23 cards comes in a collectible embossed box.” Buckminster Fuller is one of the all-star pattern seekers so honored.

Playboy Magazine mentions Fuller in the profile of Susan Miller (Miss September 1972) and an interview with Allen Ginsberg but some other Fuller information hasn’t made it online yet.  This includes the Playboy article “Cities of the Future” from January 1968 and an interview from February 1972.  Buckminster Fuller: Anthology for a New Millennium edited by Thomas Zung incorrectly cites Fuller’s Playboy interview in the year 1970.  Fuller makes some remarkable claims in his Playboy interview… “I’m not surprised to see women getting naked, because the more naked they are, the more they tend to discourage the sex urge.  If a woman is covered up with skirts, man is driven by curiosity.  Take away the skirts and he says to hell with it.  And I find us getting an enormous amount of homosexuality, which I see as nature supplying us a negative urge that diminishes our capacity to make babies.”  “Man probably came to this planet as whole man, a creature very much like what we see today.  He might have been sent by electromagnetic waves.”  “You could take human beings and inbreed them until you came up with a monkey.  You can see that happening every day.  Lots of people are halfway to monkey.”  See also Buckminster Fuller, Creationist.

Science Daily writes that Salvatore Torquato (Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials) and Yang Jiao (Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering) have bested the world record set last year by Elizabeth Chen (University of Michigan) for tetrahedra packing.  “Torquato and Jiao were able to fill a volume to 78.2 percent of capacity with tetrahedra.”  Buckminster Fuller made no specific claims about the closest packing of tetrahedra but would likely have found this discovery of interest.

synchronofile.com had the honor of announcing the restoration of the Dymaxion Car in September 2009.  This resulted in a spike of interest in the car both on and off the Internet (see below).  Crosthwaite and Gardiner, the company trusted with the restoration, have published some remarkable photographs of their work in progress here and hereYour help is still needed in identifying the source components used in the original Dymaxion Car.

☂ Noel Murphy is filming a documentary titled The Last Dymaxion. “One of the greatest minds of our time designed the very first green car. Certain corporations destroyed the possibility of that car ever being produced, but now, in the 21st century, the last Dymaxion is being restored, and along with it Buckminster Fuller’s Dream.”  Noel is also the author/lead in the play Buckminster Fuller LiveThe Last Dymaxion is scheduled for release Christmas 2010.

☂ The 1929 automobile of Engelbert Zaschka exhibited features that were important to Fuller.  It was a three-wheeled car, like his Dymaxion.  But it could also easily be folded, disassembled and re-assembled as could Fuller’s Dymaxion House and many geodesic domes.  Zaschka was an advocate and pioneer inventor for the personal helicopter, achieving Fuller’s goal of a personal omnidirectional transportation vehicle.  More information at Wikipedia (English, German) German-language excerpt from a television documentary on Zaschka here and a short film of the Zaschka being disassembled here.

☂ Hillary Louise Johnson wrote Super Vixens’ Dymaxion Lounge in 1997. Chapters one through six of Super Vixens’ Dymaxion Lounge are now online.  Salon described the book as “a slim but wickedly brutal take on existential life in modern L.A., and one woman’s quest for depth amidst the neon-drenched chaos and urban (not to mention urbane) sprawl. With a toddler in tow all the while. […] Much of the book focuses on Johnson’s search for a way past such hackneyed responses, but she’s also aware of how difficult that is in a town where, a friend tells her, ‘style is substance.’ L.A. is a ‘dymaxion’ town, a term used by Buckminster Fuller to describe a world unto itself, where everything intermeshes and everything is available. So she’s wise enough to know that the idea of breaking through clichés is a cliché itself. Is she really going to be gratified by seducing the Little Caesar’s delivery boy, dating a couple, hanging out with drag queens? Nothing’s ironic in a town built on irony; a teacher at a Montessori school placidly tells Johnson that ‘the playground’s in the backyard, very safe from drive-by shootings.'”

☂ D. W. Jacob’s play R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER: THE HISTORY (and mystery) OF THE UNIVERSE will be performed May 28 – July 4, 2010 at the Arena Stage Crystal City in Washington, DC.  Doug tells me: “Crystal City has put out an international call for artists to create outdoor works of art around Bucky themes and concepts, etc.”  More information available from the Arena Stage.

☂ Kirby Urner was the first webmaster for the Buckminster Fuller Institute (bfi.org circa 1996 via archive.org).  His sites 4D Solutions and grunch.net were some of the first and best online for Fuller mathematics.  He was a consultant for textbook publisher McGraw Hill and continues to serve as an educator.  Kirby is involved in the Thunderbird Early College Charter School, IEEE, Leadership & Entrepreneurial Public Charter High School,  python and linux development and much more.  Sometimes Kirby openly promotes Fuller in his educational work, sometimes he works in stealth mode.  See a little of both in action at the Oregon Curriculum Network.  Kirby’s style is that of a river: as deep as it flows, it also flows swift.  He’s on to the next problem before you dry off from the first.  Try to catch up with Kirby via Grain of Sand, Control Room , Coffee Shops Network, and the BizMo Diaries.  Each of these is generously illustrated with his flickr photo stream.

- Trevor Blake

Trevor Blake is the author of the Buckminster Fuller Bibliography, available at synchronofile.com

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010 books, dymaxion, maps, rbf, synchronofile

Dymaxion Car Restored

The Dymaxion Car of R. Buckminster Fuller is being restored by the company Crosthwaite and Gardiner.

Dymaxion Car #1 was involved in a fatal accident, restored, and later accidentally destroyed in a fire.  Dymaxion Car #3 was was bought and sold many times (including being bought and sold by Fuller) and disappeared in the 1950s.  It may have been sold as scrap during the US-Korean war.  Two of the three Dymaxion Cars are lost forever.

Dymaxion Car #2 was produced by Fuller, Starling Burgess and the 4D Dymaxion Car factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1933.  The company that produced the car collapsed in 1934 and Fuller relinquished the vehicle to his employees in lieu of wages.  It was discovered in California in the 1960s, having been abandoned.  Dymaxion Car #2 was later purchased for the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada USA.  The Museum superficially restored the exterior of Dymaxion Car #2.  In addition to being displayed at the National Automobile Museum, it was displayed at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago in 1973 and the Whitney Museum in New York in 2008. Crosthwaite and Gardiner is now conducting a detailed restoration of the exterior and partial restoration of the interior of Dymaxion Car #2.

Trevor Blake of synchronofile.com has been providing essential research material on the Dymaxion Car to Crosthwaite and Gardiner since February 2009. C&G researcher Phil King wrote: “More and more details are slowly coming out from the archives and from people like yourself, but I must say your information has been the most informative and the most prolific so far. […] I know I keep saying it but your help has been fantastic and you have made a difference.”

synchronofile.com has been granted the great honor of announcing the restoration of the Dymaxion Car – because our readers are now invited to help in the project.  Can you identify the manufacturer for this component?

Dymaxion Car Turn Signal 3 of 3
Dymaxion Car Turn Signal 2 of 3
Dymaxion Car Turn Signal 1 of 3

These three photographs depict a component of Dymaxion Car #2.  In the US they are called ‘turn signals.’  In the UK they are called ‘indicators.’  It may have been manufactured for a trolley (UK: tram) or a bus.  If you can identify the manufacturer for this component please send your answer to Phil King of Crosthwaite and Gardiner at the address below.  Say synchronofile.com sent you – and watch this space for further announcements…

- Trevor Blake

Trevor Blake is the author of the Buckminster Fuller Bibliography, available at synchronofile.com

Resources:

Saturday, September 19th, 2009 dymaxion, rbf, synchronofile

Buckminster Fuller and the Twelfth of July

fullerburgess12july1933
Starling Burgess and R. Buckminster Fuller, Dymaxion Car. Modern Mechanix Magazine October 1933.

[An expanded, corrected and illustrated update of this article appears in The Lost Inventions of Buckminster Fuller.]

All of the following occurred on the twelfth of July…

1895 Richard Buckminster Fuller was born.
1910 Richard Buckminster Fuller Senior, Fuller’s father, died.
1917 Fuller married Anne Hewlett.
1933 Fuller completed Dymaxion Car #1.
1938-1939 ‘the main system of general education instruction to go on the air and screen’ according to Fuller’s book Nine Chains to the Moon.
1938 Roger Hewlett wrote a poem for Fuller titled One Chain to a Room.
1940 Fuller vacationed with Christopher Morley and conceived the Dymaxion Deployment Unit.
1957 a United States Marine Corps dome was lifted by helicopter from the deck of the USS Leyte.
1957 Fuller received an honorary doctorate from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri USA.
1966 Fuller lectured at a NASA Symposium at Southern Illinois University Institute of Technology in Carbondale, Illinois USA.
1967 the Montreal Biosphère was dedicated by Fuller to Anne as a wedding anniversary gift.
1969 the first Public World Game was played in New York City, New York USA.
1970 Fuller received an honorary doctorate from Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois USA.
1974 Matthew Meyerson wrote a haiku for Fuller in the Synergetics Cookbook.
1976 Fuller received and honorary doctorate from the University of New Mexico.
1980 John Cage wrote a poem about Buckminster Fuller.
[R. Buckminster Fuller died in 1983]
1984 a commemorative exhibit titled In Memoriam R B F was shown in Singapore.
1999 Your Private Sky: R. Buckminster Fuller edited by Joachim Krausse published.
2000 Ron Campbell performed Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe at the Lorraine Hansberry Theater in San Francisco, California USA.
2003 the Artaud Theater in San Francisco hosted a Buckminster Fuller birthday tribute.
2004 the US Postal Service issued a stamp honoring Buckminster Fuller.
2008 Bucky’s Ge-Odyssey presented by The Center for Architecture Foundation in New York City, New York USA.
2008 synchronofile.com.

- Trevor Blake

Trevor Blake is the author of the Buckminster Fuller Bibliography, available at synchronofile.com

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009 books, DDU, domes, dymaxion, rbf, synchronofile, world game

Buckminster Fuller and the Homeless of New York

145 Ridge Street

[An expanded, corrected and illustrated update of this article appears in The Lost Inventions of Buckminster Fuller.]

If Buckminster Fuller is known for any effort, it is the effort to provide shelter.  But who did Fuller actually provide shelter for?  The Lightful House and 4D House existed only on paper.  The Dymaxion House existed only as a small scale model.  The Dymaxion (Wichita) House existed as two full-scale models (one internal, one external, neither able to be connected to the other).  The Dymaxion Deployment Unit did house US armed forces personnel – but the DDU was the invention of Victor C. Norquist, not Buckminster Fuller.  The geodesic dome was invented by Walter Bauersfeld who made a number of dome shelters.  Fuller never built a dome for sale as a shelter.  Of the dozens of books by and about Fuller, of the thousands of articles on his life and work, most of them fail to give a single instance of when Fuller actually provided shelter to anyone.  The Buckminster Fuller Bibliography by Trevor Blake is the first book to document that Fuller provided shelter for others with his own direct effort.

The New York Times for 10 September 1932 includes an uncredited article titled “Single Jobless Men to Get Lodging House / Social Worker and Engineer Obtain Use of Tenement for Those Ineligible for City Aid.”  The building in question was a then-deserted seven-story building located at 145 Ridge Street in New York City, New York.  The social worker was Ben Howe and the engineer was Buckminster Fuller.  Fuller is described as “editor of the magazine Shelter and head of Structural Study Associates, an engineering firm.”  According to the article, the men who were renovating the building were hoping to live in it afterward.  They were otherwise ineligible for benefits because they were not the head of a family.  The building was to house two hundred and fifty men at a time and serve several thousand during Winter.  Lieutenant R. E. Johnson was also involved in this project.  He is described as a “former army construction engineer and commander of the United States Ex-Service Men’s Association.”  At the time of the article, the shelter was under construction.  The building described in this article no longer exists.

The New York Times for 2 December 1932 includes an uncredited article titled “Jobless Veterans Back in Barracks / 300 Single Men to Live Under Military Rule in Converted Clubhouse in 54th St.”  The building in question was a five-story converted boy’s club at 340 East 54th Street in New York City, New York.  According to the article, the shelter would be run by and for veterans and in a military style.  The shelter would serve single men because of their difficulties in obtaining relief from existing services.  The plan was initiated by “a meeting of representatives of various interested organizations at the office of Raymond V. Ingersoll.”  Ingersoll served as a New York Parks Commissioner and as a Brooklyn Borough President.  A residential development named after Ingersoll stands today at 120 Navy Walk in Brooklyn, New York.  The representatives at the meeting included Ben Howe and Buckminster Fuller of the 145 Ridge Street shelter, Philip Hiss, Colonel Walter L. DeLamater, Arthur Huck, Louis Gleich, Owen R. Lovejoy, Cyrus C. Perry,  James R. Sichel and Henry C. Wright.  Philip Hiss went on to design and build homes in Florida, although he was not a trained architect.  Col. DeLamater served in the 71st Infantry Regiment, an organization of the New York State Guard.  Arthur Huck worked on numerous homeless shelter projects in the New York area, as reported in decades of articles found in the New York Times. Louis Gleich was a commander in the New York County Council of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and was the chairman of the committee that erected a VFW monument in Union Square.  Owen Lovejoy served as the General Secretary of the Nationial Child Labor Committee.  The building formerly house the Kips Bay Boys’ Club, where Lovejoy served as secretary.  The building was to be called Veterans Cantonment No. 1.  At the time of the article, the shelter was in operation.  The building described in this article may still exist, but as the building next to the one that currently is designated as 340 East 54th Street.

By 1932, Buckminster Fuller had published drawings of his 4D House and exhibited models of his Dymaxion House.  He had been featured in the Chicago Evening Post, Fortune Magazine, the Harvard Crimson, Modern Mechanics Magazine, the New York Times and Time Magazine.  Fuller had published his monograph 4D and was publishing Shelter Magazine.  He had earned the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade in the United States Navy.  In 1933 Fuller would begin work on the Dymaxion Car.

What makes these shelters distinct from any other that Fuller was involved with was that they provided actual shelter to actual men.  While they do not have the glamor that Fuller’s Dymaxion House and other creations had, they hold the advantage by having existed. Giving a new purpose to an existing structure was an idea that Fuller seldom developed but never abandoned. In his 1970 book I Seem to Be a Verb, Fuller wrote: “Our beds are empty two-thirds of the time. Our living rooms are empty seven-eights of the time. Our office buildings are empty one-half of the time. It‘s time we gave this some thought.”

- Trevor Blake

Trevor Blake is the author of the Buckminster Fuller Bibliography, available at synchronofile.com

Reference:

71st Infantry Regiment (New York). 1 April 2009. Wikipedia. 22 May 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/71st_Infantry_Regiment_(New_York)

Davis, Edwards: “Advocates the Standardizing of Industry by Law.” New York Times [New York City, New York] 27 July 1913: SM14

Fuller, R. Buckminster. I Seem to Be a Verb. New York: Bantam Books, 1970.

Ingersoll, Raymond V. Houses. 2009. New York City Housing Authority. 22 May 2009. http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycha/html/developments/bklyningersoll.shtml

“Louis Gleich, 69, Dies.” New York Times [New York City, New York] 26 Sept 1961: 39.

“Philip H. Hiss 3d, 78, Designer of Buildings.” New York Times [New York City, New York]
4 November 1988: B4.

Sieden, Lloyd S. Buckminster Fuller’s Universe. Cambridge: Perseus Publishing, 1989.

Friday, May 22nd, 2009 4d, DDU, domes, dymaxion, geodesic, rbf, shelter, synchronofile

The Lost Inventions of Buckminster Fuller (Part 3 of 3)

US Patent 2,466,013

[An expanded, corrected and illustrated update of this article appears in The Lost Inventions of Buckminster Fuller.]

The author of this essay is not a legal expert, and this essay is not legal advice. Consult a legal professional before acting on any of the information found in this essay.

Inventions, the Patented Works of R. Buckminster Fuller is a good introduction to Fuller’s many inventions. It is the basis for this overview of Fuller’s patented work. But Inventions does not include all of Fuller’s inventions, nor are all the inventions in Inventions by Fuller. Some inventions relevant to Fuller’s work are not included in Inventions. This essay will detail the lost inventions of Buckminster Fuller. Part one offers undocumented information about the illustrations in Inventions and lists the patents in Inventions that were awarded to Fuller and owned by Fuller. Part two is a collection of patents in Inventions that were awarded to Fuller but assigned to someone else, patents by Fuller and someone else, and patents not by Fuller but included in Inventions, the Patented Works of R. Buckminster Fuller. Part three are the lost inventions of Buckminster Fuller, works that were not patented or which do not appear in Inventions, and works that should have been in Inventions but were not.

Three inventions found in Inventions not patented by Fuller or by anyone else: the 4D House, the Dymaxion House and the Octa Spinner.

The 4D House has no patent. Inventions claims the patent was submitted in 1928, rejected, and Fuller did not re-submit out of ignorance that this was an option. Fuller does not state why he did not re-submit when he learned that this was an option. In Buckminster Fuller’s Universe, author Lloyd Sieden writes that Fuller offered the rights to the 4D House to the American Institute of Architects as a gift and that this gift was rejected. Inventions also claims the 4D House patent is rectilinear like a conventional house because his unnamed patent attorney advised him it would be more convincing to the patent examiners. The illustrations of the 4D House in Inventions are generally of a hexagonal building rather than the rectilinear building in the patent itself. The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller calls the hexagonal 4D House the ‘clean-up model’ in illustration 40 and is seen in illustrations 40-41 and 49-64. Variations of the hexagonal 4D House are seen in Dymaxion World illustrations 2, 16-39 and 66.

Loretta Lorance’s book Becoming Bucky Fuller is the definitive account of Fuller’s work for Stockade Systems, his 4D House and the earliest models of the Dymaxion House.  Fuller’s Chronofile (the multi-ton collection of papers Fuller kept of his work) is now in the posession of Stanford University.  Lorance is among the first to have full access to the source material rather than relying solely on Fuller’s lectures.  According to the source documents, Fuller was not ignorant of the patent process because he did pursue it before, at the time and afterwards.  The patent for the 4D House was abandoned because of the 43 claims made in his application, all 43 could be found in earlier patents.  Attorney D. H. Sweet is blamed for the rectilinear 4D House in his patent application but Fuller’s own sketches to this point had been rectilinear.

The Dymaxion House / Wichita House has no patent. In Inventions Fuller directs the readers to Grunch of Giants as to why the Dymaxion House did not go into production. Grunch of Giants claims this was due to a lack of a distribution system, difficulties with building codes, resistance from electricians and plumbers unions and an unwillingness by banks to offer mortgages. But there is no published explanation why Fuller or someone else did not patent the Dymaxion House. The Wichita House appears in Dymaxion World illustrations 184-227. Much of Fuller Houses by Federico Neder concerns the Dymaxion House. The most important information on why the Dymaxion House never went into production can be found on pages 85-114 of Pawley’s Buckminster Fuller. Namely, this was due to Fuller’s “fanatical determination to retain complete personal control of the project and refine the house still further before putting it into production.” Although there were estimates of 250,000 Dymaxion Houses to be produced each year and 37,000 unsolicited orders before production began, the only Dymaxion Houses ever made were incomplete or miniature models. Of all the lost inventions of Buckminster Fuller, this is the one that could have done the most good in the world. The Dymaxion House was just as Fortune magazine described it: the industry that industry missed.

The Octa Spinner has no patent. In Inventions, Fuller writes: “I did not go through with the octet spinner patent after filing because the expense of patent work is very great, and I’m not in the manufacturing world, and I felt that it would not be worth carrying any further.” The Mind’s Eye of Buckminster Fuller by Donald W. Robertson, however, claims that Fuller’s initial application was rejected and that he only ended the process after carrying it further into a second application. The Stockade patents are clearly part of the manufacturing world, and much of his work on shelters could be considered the same.  The Chronofile contains a folder labeled “Original Patents file: Octa Spinner [application withdrawn – case no. 349.021] March, 1965.”

Two patents related to the Dymaxion Deployment Unit have a questionable history.  Fuller’s Design for a Prefabricated House (133,411) is a near-identical copy of the earlier 133,418. Design for a Prefabricated House (133,418) was filed by Victor C. Norquist and assigned to the Dymaxion Company on 11 August 1942.  Norquist had dozens of patents to his credit.  Many were assigned to Butler Manufacturing, which produced the Dymaxion Deployment Units.  Norquist’s patent reads in part: “Be it known that I, Victor C. Norquist […] have invented a new, original and ornamental Design for a Prefabricated House of which the following is a specification… ”  Not appearing in Inventions is Fuller’s patent 133,411, awarded on 11 August 1942, for Design for a Prefabricated House.  Fuller’s patent reads in part: “Be it known that I, Richard Buckminster Fuller […] have invented a new, original and ornamental Design for a Prefabricated House of which the following is a specification… ”  The text of 133,418 (Norquist) and 133,411 (Fuller) is nearly identical and the illustrations are nearly identical.  The date of each patent being assigned to the Dymaxion Company is identical.  Norquist filed on 24 May 1941 and Fuller filed a week later on 31 May 1941.  Norquist’s patent was awarded two years before either of Fuller’s Dymaxion Deployment Unit patents appearing in Inventions (2,343,764 and 2,351,419).

Dymaxion patent Fastening Means 2,466,013 is not mentioned in Fuller’s work at all.  Fastening Means (2,466,013) was filed by Bill Dean Eaton and assigned to the Dymaxion Company on 5 April 1949.  This invention is lost in the literature on Fuller and the Dymaxion Deployment Unit.  It is not mentioned in Inventions or Dymaxion World or any similar title, although it is intimately related to Fuller’s work.  James Monroe Hewitt’s patent 1,633,702 for Building Structure (28 June 1927) appears in both the Chronofile and Inventions.  Hewitt’s earlier patent 1,631,373 for Partition Walls (7 June 1927) appears in the Chronofile but not in Inventions.  Again, the earlier patent work of others is left out of Fuller’s book Inventions although it is intimately related to his own work.

More than a dozen inventions claimed by Fuller do not appear in Inventions but do appear in Dymaxion World or other titles.  These include variations of the 4D House and the geodesic dome, a number of storage systems and furniture items, and others.  Two artifacts that do not appear in Inventions will be detailed here.  These are the fog gun and Fuller’s possible role in the development of disc breaks.

The Fog Gun appears in Dymaxion World illustration 88-92 but not in InventionsDymaxion World, Buckminster Fuller’s Universe and other sources quote Fuller claiming that while in the Navy he was able to clean grease off his hands by the mist eternally surrounding ships at sea.  The fog gun was a means of directing atomized water under pressure for hygiene purposes.  The fog gun is mentioned in Fuller’s 1938 book Nine Chains to the MoonDymaxion World claims the fog gun was tested at the Institute of Design in Chicago in 1948 “and subsequently at Yale and other universities.”  In these tests a one-hour “massaging pressure bath” used one pint (.47 liters) of water.  In session 11 part 2 of Fuller’s 42-hour lecture “Everything I Know,” Fuller claims professional dermatologists were consulted in researching the fog gun.  Dymaxion World continues by saying “If fog gun bathing were done in front of a heat lamp, [all the effects of bathing] could be effected without the use of any bathroom.  Since there would be no run-off waters, tons of plumbing and enclosing walls could be eliminated, and bathing would become as much an ‘in-the-bedroom’ process as dressing.”  Buckminster Fuller’s Universe claims the test of the fog gun found it to be “a completely satisfactory system of cleansing, which, in fact, caused less damage to skin than ordinary soap and water.  Thus, another significant artifact was created and left until a time when future generations would require it.”  Has that generation arrived?

Fuller seems to have had some role in the development of disc brakes during his employment at Phelps Dodge in 1937.   Buckminster Fuller’s Universe describes Fuller’s invention as “a revolutionary solid bronze drum fitted with rubber insets to dissipate heat very rapidly, thereby solving [problems] which had plagued automobile and truck breaking systems for decades.  His new breaks also cut stopping times by nearly 50 percent and were the forerunner of the now-popular disc breaks.”  Grunch of Giants describes this invention as “carbon blocks-inserted, copper disc-brakes” that were “successfully demonstrated.”  BuckyWorks claims that Fuller had considered disc brakes for the second Dymaxion Car (circa 1934).  Are Fuller’s contribution to disc brakes (like his contribution to tension-supported tents) part of his most-seen and least-appreciated legacy?

The Chronofile is now housed at Stanford University.  It contains a number of works-in-progress that are not found in any of Fuller’s published work, either during his life or after.  These include “Energy Storage / Switching 1968-1969;” “Electronic Computer Energy Transformation 1969-1972;” “Metabolics Money 7/11/1973;” “Helicopter Rotor Sail 1976;” “De-Resonated Tensegrity Dome 1981;” and “Methods and Apparatus for Constructing Spheres 7/1/1982.”  Hopefully over time these lost inventions will see print in some form.

Inventions includes the Great Britain patent for the Dymaxion Car.  Otherwise, no international patents appear in Inventions.  But Fuller applied for and was sometimes awarded other international patents, as found in the Chronofile.  Canadian patents include the Geodesic Dome in 1955, the Octet Trus and the Plydome in 1957, the Paperboard Dome in 1959, Tensegrity in 1960, the Laminar Dome in 1961, Star Tensegrity in 1968.  Japanese patents include the Monohex Dome 1979 and in 1965 something called the “Octa-Hedronal Truss.”  The Hex-Pent Dome was patented in Australia, Canada, India, Israel and Italy in 1973.   Non-symetrical Tensegrity was patented in Canada, Great Britain, India, Italy and Japan in 1977.  Fuller sought intellectual property rights in Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, The Congo, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Finland, France, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordon, Kenya, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Uruguay, Venezuela and West Germany.

Fuller had at least two reasons for seeking patent control over his inventions.  These were to prevent others from profiting from his inventions and to document what one person can achieve.  Donald W. Robertson wrote a book about his experience as Fuller’s patent lawyer titled The Mind’s Eye of Buckminster Fuller.  Robertson described why Fuller sought patents.  “While Fuller did not wish to seek patent profits by ‘selling’ efforts, he was adamant in seeking to forestall efforts of others to profit by making unauthorized use of his inventions.”  The Chronofile includes legal disputes over royalties with North American Aviation between 1958 and 1961 and with Ernest Okress between 1978 and 1979.  According to Siobhan Roberts’ book on Donald Coxeter, King of Infinite Space, Fuller’s patent on the Radome was defended in Canada by the United States Department of Defence.  Fuller hoped that the long-term and public nature of the US Patent Office would serve as a long-term and public record of his work.  Fuller wrote in Inventions: “The public record established by my patents […] can serve as a critical appraisal of the historical relevance, practicality, and relative effectiveness of my half-century’s experimental commitment to discover what, if anything, an individual human being eschewing politics and money-making can do effectively on behalf of all humanity.”

R. Buckminster Fuller described himself as a “terrific package of experiences.”  The record of Fuller’s uncredited duplication of prior work suggests that he was at times a terrific package of other people’s experiences.

- Trevor Blake

Trevor Blake is the author of the Buckminster Fuller Bibliography, available at synchronofile.com

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 4d, domes, dymaxion, geodesic, rbf, stockade, tensegrity, wichita