geodesic

Energetic-Synergetic Geometry 1962

R. Buckminster Fuller signed a book contract with Macmillan Publishing Company in 1961. The book in question, Synergetics, was not begun until 1969 and not published until 1975. The Energetic-Synegetic Geometry of R. Buckminster Fuller was published in a single, small-run edition in 1962 and has not seen print since. This is the first publication of the cover of this book, a small gift to the internet in honor of Fuller’s birthday. The twelfth of July was a special day for Fuller…

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012 books, geodesic

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

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

Geodesic Domes and Earthquakes

Trevor Blake has not been compensated by any manufacturer found in this article. Always consult with a professional before the construction or purchase of any building.

Haiti Air Drop, 18 January 2010
U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III airdrops humanitarian aid into the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 18 January 2010. Photograph by U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. James L. Harper Jr. Source: wikipedia.

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

R. Buckminster Fuller (1895 – 1983) made claims about how geodesic domes would weather an earthquake.  In Perspecta Vol. 1 (Yale School of Architecture, Summer 1952) Fuller claims geodesic domes will arrive at “predictably stable conditions under extreme stress of earthquakes.” In Inventions (St. Martin’s Press, 1983) Fuller wrote:

When I invented and developed my first clear-span, all-weather geodesic dome, the two largest domes in the world were both in Rome and were each 150 feet in diameter. They are St. Peter’s, built around A.D. 1500, and the Pantheon built around A.D. 1. Each weighs approximately thirty thousand tons. In contrast, my first 150-foot-diameter geodesic all-weather  dome installed in Hawaii weighs only thirty tons – one-thousandth the weight of its masonry counterpart. An earthquake will tumble both the Roman 150-footers, but would leave
the geodesic unharmed.

On 12 January 2010 the island nation of Haiti experienced a 7.0 M earthquake.  Thousands were killed, thousands more are now without shelter.  If Haiti had more geodesic domes, would fewer have died and would fewer now be without shelter?  Fuller’s claims about geodesic domes and earthquakes appear to have been made before the claims had been tested.  Others have made claims about geodesic domes and earthquaks, and some testing of geodesic domes and earthquakes has occurred since Fuller’s time.

Both professional and amateur dome builders have made claims about how geodesic domes can weather an earthquake.  Timberline Domes writes: “Geodesic structures have shown themselves to endure through severe storms and earthquakes, due to the strength of their design.” Michael W. Johnson was introduced to the geodesic dome at the Design School at North Carolina State University. Fuller and some NCSU students had built domes as early as 1949, as seen in these remarkable photographs. Mr. Johnson moved to El Salvadore in the 1970s, where in 1977 he experienced an earthquake. Since that time Mr. Johnson has penned an essay titled Geo Dome Homes for the Third World on building geodesic domes using local materials as a means of weathering earthquakes. These domes are scheduled to be built “after July 2008.” The Loma Prieta earthquake of 17 October 1989 was measured at a magnitude of 6.9. According to Oregon Dome Information Series #11, Disaster Fitness [pdf], this earthquake left the family of Joan Fevaros homeless. A few doors from the remains of their home was a still-standing geodesic dome home that offered them temporary shelter. “When [the Favaros family] went to the county building department to get a permit to demolish their old home to make way for a new one, they were told that the county would not allow any two-story homes to be built. Joan told them that they wanted to build a new two-story dome home on the site of their old home. The county official replied, ‘Oh, if it’s a dome home, then that will be OK.’” Disaster Fitness makes similar claims for a 6.2 M earthquake on 28 June 1992 near Yucca Valley, California.

Some professional dome manufacturers are willing to put their claims to the test, including direct aid to Haiti. American Ingenuity warranties their domes against structural damage due to hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes. From the A.I. Warranty: “Your dome home is designed to withstand the powerful forces of nature. American Ingenuity’s warranty or guarantee assures against any structural storm damage as a result of the ravages of tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes regardless of the force. Such a warranty has been unheard of in the construction industry until now. [...] The founder of American Ingenuity, Michael Busick, manufactured and built his first concrete dome in 1976. Since then no American Ingenuity Dome has suffered any structural damage due to hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes.” Pacific Domes has made a one-time offer of up to 50% off list prices to send shelters to Haiti and will match donations made to World Shelters, World Shelters has its own international earthquake disaster reliefeffort involving geodesic structures and is supported by Humbolt State University class Engineering 305 Appropriate Technology. Monolithic Domes does not manufacture geodesic domes. Monolithic domes are manufactured by inflating a hemispherical shape then covering that shape with steel-reinforced concrete and insulation. What a Monolithic dome might lack in being mobile, it compensates for in being durable. Monolithic Domes were inspired by a 1950s lecture by Fuller. Monolithic Domes and musician Won-G had planned to build Monolithic domes in Haiti several weeks before the earthquake. This dome will house five hundred and is part of the One Dome at a Time project.

While before-the-fact claims about geodesic domes and earthquakes are easy to find, after-the-fact accounts of geodesic domes and earthquakes are difficult to find.  The Materials Park Building of  ASM International is housed under a geodesic dome raised in 1959.  This dome was designed by T. C. Howard, William Hunt Eisenman and John Terence Kelly. It was manufactured by the North American Aviation Company. The ASM dome weathered a 5.0 M earthquake on 31 January 1986. The extent of the damage was the sheering of a few bolts. In this single case, it appears Fuller’s claims about geodesic domes and earthquakes is accurate.

Geodesic domes may or may not have more integrity in an earthquake than other structures.  They have not been tested enough to make further claims.  But geodesic domes as emergency shelters are well tested and could be part of relief efforts in Haiti and elsewhere.

- Trevor Blake

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

Monday, March 1st, 2010 domes, geodesic, rbf, shelter, synchronofile

LOST Domes

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

The television program LOST (first broadcast on the United States channel ABC between 2004-2010) includes geodesic domes.  I do not intend to say much here about the show other than I have enjoyed it tremendously.  The sixth and final season of LOST begins in February 2010.  This essay will discuss the geodesic domes appearing in LOST.

To date the dome has been seen in three forms.  The first version of the dome is the dome itself, seen in the episode ‘Man of Science, Man of Faith’ on 21 September 2005.  This dome is a full-sized set, while the other two are models.  It is implied that this dome is a 5/8th-sphere made up of panels with one or more entryways.  The second version of the dome is a model of the completed dome, seen in the episode ‘Orientation’ on 5 October 2005.  This dome is a cutaway model made of panels of a 5/8th-sphere.  The second version of the dome is a model of the dome under construction, seen in the episode ‘Namaste’ on 18 March 2009.  This dome is an in-progress 5/8th-sphere made of struts. The ‘Man of Science’ dome and another dome appear in the computer game LOST: Via Domus.  All of the geodesic domes appearing in LOST are class one, four-frequency, 5/8ths truncated spheres.

The word geodesic is made up of the root words geo (Earth) and desic (divide).  A geodesic sphere is a sphere divided by lines.  The equator around the Earth is a geodesic line, dividing the Earth into a Northern and Southern hemisphere (partial sphere).  The equator and the Prime Meridian line divide the Earth into four sections.  A longitude line 90-degrees from the Equator and from the Prime Meridian would divide the Earth into eight sections.  Were the points where these lines cross connected within the Earth, the connections would form an octahedron.  If the triangular faces of that octagon were subdivided into smaller triangles each, and if these triangles were projected out from a central point onto the surface of the earth, it would form the coordinates for a geodesic sphere.  Geodesic spheres can also be ‘projected out’ from an imagined icosahedron inside a sphere.  If the triangular faces of an icosahedron are subdivided into smaller triangles and these smaller triangles are projected out from a central point onto the surface of a sphere, the familiar pattern of a geodesic sphere is seen.

The first patent for a geodesic dome shelter was awarded to Walter Bauersfeld in 1925 (see The Lost Inventions of Buckminster Fuller by Trevor Blake).  Buckminster Fuller popularized the use of the geodesic dome.  He also conducted and inspired a great deal of original research into the use of geodesic domes as shelters.  Fuller first referred to ‘alternative’ and ‘regular’ domes, but the terms class one and class two have become standardized terms.

Class one and class two domes are differentiated by how the faces of a polyhedron (in this case, the triangular faces of an icosahedron) are subdivided before being projected out from a central point onto the surface of a sphere .  A class one dome divides the faces of a polygon more or less parallel to the edges of the polygon.  A class two dome divides the faces of a polygon more or less perpendicular to the edges of the polygon.  To see the difference, draw two triangles.  Place a mark in the center of each edge of each triangle.  On the first triangle, draw a line connecting the marks.  On the second triangle, draw a line connecting the mark to the opposite corner.  The first triangle will be subdivided into four smaller triangles, one in the center and one in each corner.  The second triangle will be subdivided into six smaller right-angle triangles, each one touching a center point.  The first triangle is how the face of an icosahedron is subdivided in a class one geodesic sphere.  The second triangle is how the face of an icosahedron is subdivided in a class two geodesic sphere.  The LOST domes are class one domes.

The frequency of a geodesic sphere is how many times a projected polygon face is subdivided.  An icosahedron has a frequency of one (or 1v), as its faces are not subdivided.  The first triangle mentioned in the previous paragraph, the subdivided triangular faces found in a class one geodesic sphere, are two frequency (or 2v).  Triangular faces on an icosahedron can be divided into any number of frequencies.  Low frequency geodesic spheres have the advantage of a uniformity of components.  High frequency geodesic spheres have the advantage of a closer approximation to a sphere.  Most of the triangles on a geodesic sphere can be seen as part of a hexagon.  Some triangles, however, are also part of pentagons.  The edges of the triangles making up pentagons on geodesic spheres radiate from a central point to another pentagon on the sphere.  Counting the number of edges from pentagon to pentagon (including edges in a pentagon) reveals the frequency of a geodesic sphere.  The LOST domes have a pentagon at the highest point.

The LOST domes are not geodesic spheres, but are instead geodesic domes.  A single pentagon of five triangles on a 4 frequency geodesic sphere is a 1/8th truncated sphere.  Adding the band of triangles around that pentagon makes a 1/4th truncated sphere.  The LOST domes are 5/8ths truncated spheres.  Geodesic spheres truncated into domes are a collision point between mathematical purity and architectural integrity.  The truncation lines of a geodesic sphere are nearly flush with a surface to sit on, but not exactly flush.  Readers are encouraged to join many generation of amateur geometric dome model builders.  Desert Domes offers an online calculator for finding component measurements of a 4 frequency geodesic sphere and 1/2 truncated sphere.  The audience of LOST is an audience ready for figuring out the rest.

The narrative of LOST places the construction of these geodesic domes in the mid-1970s.  In the mid-1970s Buckminster Fuller was at the height of his popularity and influence.  The use of domes in LOST helps establish when the story is taking place and the sympathies of the characters that constructed them.

References
‘Man of Science, Man of Faith’
lostpedia.com | hulu.com
‘Orientation’
lostpedia.com | hulu.com
‘Namaste’
lostpedia.com | hulu.com
Lost: Via Domus
lostpedia.com | ubisoft.com

- Trevor Blake

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

Monday, February 1st, 2010 geodesic, shelter, synchronofile

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