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?

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


Tags: , ,

Saturday, September 19th, 2009 Uncategorized

Buckminster Fuller, Creationist

According to a 1991 Gallup poll, 5% of all scientists in the United States are creationists. R. Buckminster Fuller was a member of that elite group. All quotes followed by a number in brackets are from Fuller’s book Synergetics.

Fuller claimed Darwin’s theory of evolution was false. Fuller described Darwin’s theory of evolution as “going from simple -> complex; amoeba -> monkey -> man” [229.02] and “survival of only the fittest species (and individuals within species)” [000.108]. Fuller also described Darwin’s theory of evolution as “an illusion that as yet pervades and debilitates elementary education.” [229.02] “My speculative prehistory has assumed (since 1927) Darwin’s evolution of life from the simple to the complex, accomplished through progressive agglomeration of single-cell amoebas, to be in reverse of the facts.” [Critical Path, page 7]

Instead of Darwin’s theory of evolution, Fuller supported a Lamarckian style of creationism (he did not use those terms). Lamarckism is the theory that an organism can pass on characteristics that it acquired during its lifetime to its offspring. Creationism is the theory that humanity was created by God to fulfill a purpose. Fuller claimed that by Lamarckism physical characteristics could be bred into humanity but mental characteristics could only be bred out of humanity. Fuller also claimed it was possible for porpoises and whales had human ancestors who were particularly good swimmers.

It is easy to breed out metaphysical intellection characteristics, leaving a residual concentration of purely physical proclivities and evoluting by further inbreeding from human to monkey. (Witness the millions of dollars society pays for a “prizefight” in which two organisms are each trying to destroy the other’s thinking mechanism. This and other trends disclose that a large segment of humanity is evoluting toward producing the next millennia’s special breed of monkeys). [229.04]

We can comprehend how South Sea-atoll, lagoon-frolicking male and female human swimmers gradually inbred pairs of underwater swimmers who held their breath in their lungs for ever-longer periods, and after many inbreedings of largest lungers and as many outbreedings of general adaptability organic equipment, the progeny evolved into porpoises and later into whales. [Critical Path, pages 8-9]

Darwin was influenced by Lamarckism. After reading Robert Chambers’ 1884 book supporting Lamarckism, Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, Darwin determined to put more care into his work than Chambers had put into his. Lamarckism claimed that animals gradually changed over long periods time, that different species had common ancestors, and that one of the forces that caused change in animals was the environment. But while Darwin claimed that animals unable to adapt to changing environments perished, Lamarckism claimed animals able to adapt flourished. While Darwin claimed the agent of change in animals was random mutation, Lamarckism claimed the agent of change in animals was a drive toward perfection. The fossil record and contemporary observations confirm the theories of Darwin and discredit the theories of Jean Baptiste de Lamarck. In mistaking the non-random survival of random mutations as a drive for perfection (”Evolutingly we always acquire the means to come closer to the truth” [542.06]), Fuller was mistaken.

Whales and porpoises and humans are all mammals. Whales and porpoises have an ancestor that walked on land, as do humans. But the last common ancestor between these sea creatures and one that walked on the land died out fifty four million years ago. Humanity has existed for less than two hundred thousand years. It is not possible that whales and porpoises evolved from humans.

Fuller claimed we could guide Lamarckian change through applying our intellect to problem solving. He claimed humanity exists because the universe wants us to solve problems.

Since experience is finite, it can be stored, studied, directed, and turned with conscious effort to human advantage. This means that evolution pivots on the conscious, selective use of cumulative human experience and not on Darwin’s hypothesis of chance adaptation to survival nor on his assumption of evolution independent of individual will and design. [502.23]

Humans were included in the cosmic system’s design to fulfill critical functions in respect to maintenance of the integrity of eternally regenerative Scenario Universe. To arrive full-blown and functioning in its cosmic role, humanity has been given the capability to inventory its tactical resources progressively and to reorient its functioning from an omniautomated behavior to a progressively more conscious and responsible behavioral pattern.” [ 265.01]

“Principles are entirely and only intellectually discernible. The fundamental generalized mathematical principles govern subjective comprehension and objective realization by man of his conscious participation in evolutionary events of the Universe.” [220.02]

Darwin’s theory of evolution is an explanation for why humans (and all other life forms) exist that does not include a supernatural element. Humanity exists without any particular purpose and without any claim to be special among all other life forms. Fuller disagreed, and in so doing is a creationist. Fuller claimed that humanity exists because an anthropomorphic Universe / cosmic system / God created us. We may have been placed on the Earth by this cosmic integrity Fuller also claimed humanity among all living things exists because we have a function, and that function is problem solving. To reject this destiny is to guarantee that humanity will die out. Fuller claimed humanity was discovering the principles of Universe / God and is therefore able to evolve.

So it could be that human beings, wherever they occur in Universe, may be introduced as a means of coping metaphysically with the most complex kinds of local Universe problems, so that each one of us is where the problem-solving of Universe is being transacted. If we were to think of ourselves as things - as china dolls, as kinds of china dolls that would just get smashed up or would just get worn or eroded away - that wouldn’t be very good thinking. It would be much closer to actual Universe to think of ourselves as an absolutely continuous complex process. We are quite possibly the most complex of the problem-solving challenges of the invention that is eternally regenerative Scenario Universe. In this way each of us might be a department of the mind of what we might call god. [311.14]

Generalized design-science exploration is concerned with discovery and use by human mind of complex aggregates of generalized principles in specific-longevity, special-case innovations designed to induce humanity’s consciously competent participation in local evolutionary transformation events invoking the conscious comprehension by ever-increasing proportions of humanity of the cosmically unique functioning of humans in the generalized design scheme of Universe. [165.00]

Science must be seen as a tool of fundamental advantage for all, which Universe requires that man understand and use exclusively for the positive advantage of all of humanity, or humanity itself will be discarded by Universe as a viable evolutionary agent. [826.05]

Humans, like the honeybee, are born ignorant, preprogrammed with hunger, thirst, and respiratory drives to take in chemical elements in crystalline, liquid, and gaseous increments, as well as with procreativeness and parental-protectiveness drives. With their directly programmed drives humans inadvertently produce (what are to them) side effects, which results in their doing the right cosmic regenerative tasks for all the wrong reasons - or without any reason at all. This preliminary phase of preconditioned human reflexing, while lasting millions of years, is a gestative-phase behavior that becomes obsolete as humans’ metaphysical mind discovers the principles of precession and discovers - only through vast, cumulative trial and error - the pattern experience of both terrestrial and cosmic ecology; whereafter humans will progressively recommit their endeavors in support of the recycling and orbitally regenerative effects, precessionally interproduced by all independently orbiting cosmic systems. This abrupt 90-degree reorientation constitutes the evolutionary stage through which humanity is now passing, wherein humanity will progressively exchange its exclusive preoccupation with self-preservation for that of supporting omni-inclusive, cosmic integrity. [326.13]

As noted in the present author’s essay Inefficient Nature, Fuller was an advocate of teleology. Teleology is the interpretation of apparent order as deliberate design. The observation of apparent order in Universe is interpreted as evidence of an ordering agent, apparent design interpreted as evidence of a designer.

Fuller might have resisted the title creationist. He resisted most titles, unless they were titles he coined for himself. He might have been uncomfortable with the company of fellow creationists, or proud to be seen again as an outsider to mainstream scientific thought. How much being a creationist is a mark for or against Fuller is left to the reader. But the fact that Fuller was a creationist is demonstrated in his own words.

- Trevor Blake

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


Fuller, R. Buckminster: Critical Path. New York: St. Martin’s Press 1981.
Fuller, R. Buckminster: Synergetics. New York: Macmillan, 1975.
Fuller, R. Buckminster: Synergetics 2. New York: Macmillan, 1979.
Isaak, Mark: Index to Creationist Claims, Claim CA111. http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA111.html
Wikipedia: Cetacea. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cetacea
Wikipedia: Human. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human
Wikipedia: Lamarckism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamarckism
Wikipedia: The Ancestor’s Tale. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ancestor’s_Tale
Wilkins, John: Darwin’s Precursors and Influences. http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/precursors/precurstrans.html

Tags: , ,

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009 Uncategorized

4D House in 3D

Buckminster Fuller’s 4D House in three dimensions. A work in progress by Trevor Blake of synchronofile.com. Silent, B/W, 30 seconds.

Tags: , , ,

Monday, August 3rd, 2009 Uncategorized

R. Buckminster Fuller: THE HISTORY (and Mystery) OF THE UNIVERSE

R. Buckminster Fuller: THE HISTORY (and Mystery) OF THE UNIVERSE
written and directed by D. W. Jacobs
from the life work and writings of R. Buckminster Fuller
May 28 - July 4, 2010
Arena Stage
Washington DC USA

Does humanity have a chance to survive on Spaceship Earth? Explore this question with Renaissance man R. Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome. Join us for an unforgettable journey inside one of the most remarkable minds of the 20th century in a dazzling, virtuoso multimedia performance. A hero of the green movement, Bucky framed many of the great environmental ideas of his time and ours. This is your chance to get to know the man and his world-saving mission in a play “as startlingly funny as it is intellectually stimulating” (San Francisco Examiner). It may not only change your life but the life of our planet as well.

Tags: ,

Sunday, July 5th, 2009 Uncategorized

Buckminster Fuller and the Twelfth of July

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 went online.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009 Uncategorized

Buckminster Fuller, Literary Critic

Among the many uncollected works of Buckminster Fuller are his book blurbs.  There was a time when Fuller’s social credit was such that an advertiser would use his words to promote anything from books on architecture to non-fiction to novels.  Here are some examples of book and magazine blurbs by R. Buckminster Fuller. - Trevor Blake

Architects on Architecture by Paul Heyer. “Your beautiful book is magnificently done.” New York Times 26 February 1967.  Paul Heyer is an architectural critic and author.

Future Shock by Alvin Toffler.  “Cogent… brilliant… I hope vast numbers will read Toffler’s book.”  Made into a film narrated by Orson Wells.  New York Times 5 January 29 and 31 August 1970.  Alvin Toffler, like Fuller, was associated with Fortune magazine.  Toffler is the author of The Third Wave and other books on futurist themes.

Watership Down by Richard Adams.  “One of those great ones that every once in a while lets us know that the universe has something really mysteriously great ‘going’ for humanity.”  Watership Down was made into film and a television series.  New York Times 26 February 1974.

Naked is the Best Disguise by Samuel Rosenberg.   The author “may overwhelm you.  His tapestry is beautiful.  It is incredibly logical.  I love it.”  New York Times 16 and 20 June 1974.  Rosenberg suggests that author Sir A. C. Doyle revealed his personal thoughts through his character Sherlock Holmes.

The New Yorker Magazine.  “I first came to Philadelphia in the navy, during World War I.  I was the commander of a small craft and was ordered to dock at the foot of Market Street.  It happened to be Halloween.  Not knowing how Philadelphia behaves on Halloween, I was astonished to find the whole evening I was kissed by beautiful girls.  They still have this wonderful community spirit here in Philadelphia.”  New York Times 24 October 1974.  The New Yorker is a magazine founded in the 1920s.

The Urban Predicament by William Gorman and Nathan Glazer. “I am in full agreement with you regarding the predicament… and I am all for the logical amplification of concern so effectively accomplished by your book.”  New York Times 13 June 1976.  A publication of the Urban Institute, founded in 1968.

The Human Cougar by Lloyd L. Morain. “… a warm, vivid appreciation of… a disappearing species… maligned by the masters of money and politics… ” New York Times 21 November 1976. Morain is also the author of the book Humanism As the Next Step.

Others Including Morstive Sternbump by Marvin Cohen.  “This book appeals to me so much that I do not want to make any careless quickie remarks.  Morstive Sternbump’s philosophy is congruent with my own.”  New York Times 12 December 1976.

The Clam Lake Papers by Edward Lueders.  “So spontaneously of interest that despite the priorities, we find ourselves stealing time that belongs to our committed responsibilities.  The Clam Lake Papers… certainly are for me.” New York Times 27 November 1977.  Lueders is also the author of Writing Natural History.

The Cousteau Almanac by Jaques-Yves Cousteau.  “The Cousteau Almanac is must reading for all those committed to the successful continuance of humankind in the Universe.”  New York Times 25 October 1981.  Cousteau was the inventor of the self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, SCUBA.

Mankind in Amnesia by Immanuel Velikovsky.  “Mankind in Amnesia is an extraordinarily important book, beautifully researched and devastatingly true.”  New York Times 11 April 1982.  Velikovsky was the founder of what has been called catastrophism, or the interpretation of ancient stories of world catastrophes as literal descriptions of past events.

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

Tags: , ,

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 Uncategorized

Buckminster Fuller and the Homeless of New York

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 buiding 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


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.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Friday, May 22nd, 2009 Uncategorized

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

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

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 Uncategorized

The Lost Inventions of Buckminster Fuller (Part 2 of 3)

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.

Buckminster Fuller sought patents for his works to document in an enduring form what an individual could invent for the betterment of humanity.  A primary resource for Fuller’s patents is the book Inventions, the Patented Works of R. Buckminster FullerInventions serves as the framework for this three-part essay.  Comparing the description of Fuller’s work found in that book with this essay will be most instructive.  Otherwise uncredited page numbers are from this book.  Dates following patent numbers are the date of the patent being granted.  Supplementary material comes from The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller and many other sources.  Part two of this essay will feature patents in Inventions that were not assigned to Fuller and patents not that were filed by Fuller.

Some of the patents in Inventions were not assigned to Fuller.  Some of these were also not filed by Fuller.

The Stockade Building Structure is called Building Structure in patent 1,633,702 (28 June 1927).  It is patented by James Monroe Hewitt and RBF and was assigned to Stockade Building System.  The Stockade Pneumatic Forming Process is called Mold for Building Blocks and Process of Molding in patent 1,634,900 (5 July 1927) and was assigned to Stockade Building System Inc.  Fuller was the President of Stockade Building System Inc., according to Buckminster Fuller’s Universe by Lloyd Sieden.  Becoming Bucky Fuller by Loretta Lorance offers the most complete account so far of Fuller’s complex relation to this company, its products, and how his own account of what happened differs from the historic record.  A companion photograph to the one on pages 2 and 3 of Inventions can be found on page 34 of Buckminster Fuller: An Autobiographical Monologue / Scenario by Fuller’s son-in-law Robert Snyder and illustration 9 from Dymaxion World.  Fuller writes in Inventions that this process was invented by his father-in-law, Monroe Hewlett.  This is confirmed by Hewlett’s earlier patents 1,604,097 (19 October 1926) and 1,450,724 (3 April 1923).  Neither of these earlier patents appear in Inventions, but Fuller’s patent 1,634,900 uses the same illustration as Hewlett’s patent 1,604,097.  Dymaxion World claims the Stockade System was “co-invented” by Fuller and Hewitt.  Fuller writes in Inventions that “while I did much of the inventing of technologies, the [Stockade Pneumatic Forming Process] was the only one I felt was worth patenting.”  All of these other inventions by Fuller relating to Hewlett’s invention appear to be lost.

The Dymaxion Car is called a Motor Vehicle in patent 2,101,057 (7 December 1937).  The patent was assigned to the Dymaxion Corporation.  Fuller was the Director and Chief Engineer of the Dymaxion Corporation.  The patent drawings most closely resemble Dymaxion Car #1, but two other models were produced and two more were conceived.  The photograph on pages 32-33 shows Dymaxion Car #1 outside the Dynamometer Building of the Locomobile plant in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Locomobile produced cars from 1899 to 1929.  This is the building that produced the three Dymaxion Cars.  The building was leased by W. Starling Burgess.  Burgess produced a yaht in the building while contributing to the creation of the Car.  The automobile in the upper left corner is a Franklin.  Artist Diego Rivera is seen between the car doors with his jacket in his arms.

The Morgan Motor Company had been producing three-wheeled vehicles in the USA since 1909.  The Burney, produced by Streamline Cars, used aviation design principles as early as 1927.  The Chrysler Airflow was a streamline, drag-reducing car of 1934, as was the Tatra T77 of 1935.

The earliest newspaper and magazine articles on the subject tend to favor W. Starling Burgess as the main force behind the Car.  The Dymaxion Car is first mentioned in print in the New York Times on 1 June 1933.  It is described as the creation of W. S. Burgess.  The last sentence of the article reads: “Buckminster Fuller, New York architect and engineer, is associated with Mr. Burgess in the project.”  By 22 July the New York Times comes to describe Fuller as the inventor of the Dymaxion Car and Burgess as the designer.  The Modern Mechanix of October 1933 lists Burgess and Fuller as the designers of the Car.  On 22 October the New York Times described the vehicle as the “streamlined, three-wheeled Gulf-Dymaxion Car, designed by W. Starling Burgess and Buckminster Fuller.”  At the time, Gulf Oil had purchased advertising space on the side of the Car.  Dymaxion World describes Burgess as “an assistant” in the project.

The Dymaxion Bathroom is called a Prefabricated Bathroom in patent 2,220,482 (5 November 1940).  The patent was assigned to the Phelps Dodge Corporation.  In 1936, Phelps Dodge wanted to expand their operations from mining copper to manufacturing copper products.  Fuller was hired by Phelps Dodge as a director of research and allowed to pursue any area of interest he chose.  Among his work for Phelps Dodge was the Dymaxion Bathroom.  Earlier patents for a prefabricated bathroom include Orville Smith’s  2,131,124 (30 October 1938), Samuel Samelow’s 2,087,121 (13 July 1937), Ralph Otwell’s 1,931,392 (17 October 1933), Owen Ayer’s 1,763,209 (10 June 1930) and others.  In Dymaxion World, Fuller claims that the use of red and blue handles to indicate hot and cold running water comes from the Dymaxion Bathroom.

The Dymaxion Deployment Unit (sheet) is called a Building Construction in patent 2,343,764 (7 March 1944).  The Dymaxion Deployment Unit (frame) is called a Building Construction in patent 2,351,419 (13 June 1944).  Both of these patents were assigned to Dymaxion Company Inc.  Fuller was the Director and Chief Engineer of the Dymaxion Corporation.  Dymaxion World illustration 167 identifies the photograph on pages 54-55 of Inventions as having been taken in Haynes Point Park, Washington DC in April 1941.  The photograph on page 61 of Inventions appears again with an exterior shot in Dymaxion World images 163 and 164.  The photograph on page 68 includes Walter Sanders (head of the Department of Architecture at the University of Michigan) and his wife.  The couple lived in the DDU for an unspecified period of time according to Dymaxion WorldDymaxion World emphasizes that Fuller modified the roof of an existing grain bin, giving it a more curved surface.  This modification appears to be the basis for Fuller’s claim to inventing the Dymaxion Deployment Unit.

Two of the patents that appear in Inventions / The Patented Works of R. Buckminster Fuller were never filed, owned or assigned to Fuller.

The Geodesic Hexa-Pent is called a Geodesic Pentagon and Hexagon Structure in patent 3,810,336 (14 May 1974).  The patent was granted to Shoji Sadao and assigned to Fuller & Sadao, Inc.  Shoji Sadao was a former student of Fullers.  Sadao was involved in the creation of the icosohedral Dymaxion Map (known as the Raleigh projection) and in the creation of the Expo ‘67 dome in Montreal.  In Inventions, Fuller claims that the Hexa-Pent dome was developed by Sadao and jointly named by Sadao and Fuller.  The Hexa-Pent dome is preceded by patent 3,114,176 of Alvin E. Miller (17 December 1963).  The Hexa-Pent dome was featured in the May 1972 issue of Popular Science magazine.  The plans for the dome advertised on page 139 of this issue represents the only time Fuller himself sold dome instructions to the general public.

The Tensegrity Trus is called a Tensegrity Module Structure and Method of Interconnecting the Modules in patent 4,207,715 (17 June 1980).  The patent was granted to Christopher J. Kitrick.  Fuller wrote in Inventions: “I authorized Chris to take out a patent on his invention, which by agreement I paid for and on the basis it be assigned to me.”  Fuller is not listed as assignee in this patent.

Part one of this essay offers undocumented information about the illustrations in Inventions and lists the patents in Inventions that were owned by Fuller.  Part three of this essay will feature inventions by Fuller that were not patented or which do not appear in Inventions, the most lost of all of the lost inventions of Buckminster Fuller.

- Trevor Blake

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

Tags: , , ,

Friday, March 27th, 2009 Uncategorized

The Lost Inventions of Buckminster Fuller (Part 1 of 3)

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.

Buckminster Fuller sought patents for his works to document in an enduring form what an individual could invent for the betterment of humanity.  A primary resource for Fuller’s patents is the book Inventions, the Patented Works of R. Buckminster FullerInventions serves as the framework for this three-part essay.  Comparing the description of Fuller’s work found in that book with this essay will be most instructive.  Otherwise uncredited page numbers are from this book.  Dates following patent numbers are the date of the patent being granted.  Supplementary material comes from The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller and many other sources.  Part one of this essay will feature patents found in Inventions that were made by and assigned to Fuller.

All of Fuller’s patents are lost in some way.  At minimum, all of Fuller’s patents are lost in that they have expired.  Many of Fuller’s patents fail to mention earlier patents by other inventors. Some of Fuller’s patents are lost because they have never gone into production for their intended purpose.  The patent for the geodesic dome is to be found under the title “Building Construction,” which has likely caused some researchers difficulty in finding it.  Other patents are lost because they are under documented.

Many of the illustrations in Inventions are not described in the book itself.  The photograph on the front cover is a 36′ geodesic dome made by students at the University of Minnesota and assembled in Aspen, Colorado in 1952.  Additional photographs of this dome can be found in Dymaxion World illustrations 334-339.  The end papers show the Quantico paperboard dome of 1954 (see A Study of Shelter Logistics for Marine Corps Aviation).  Page vi shows Fuller with a partially-assembled model of the 4D House in New York City in 1929.  Page xi shows Fuller at Black Mountain College in 1948.  Pages xvii and xviii appear to be Fuller at the Montreal World’s Fair dome.  It is unknown where the photographs on pages xiv, xxvi-xxvii, xxxi and xxxii were taken.

The Dymaxion Map is titled Cartography in patent 2,393,676 (29 January 1946).  Although Fuller wanted to employ an undistorted map in his efforts to coordinate people’s needs with existing resources, and although the Dymaxion Map is a worthy addition to the history of cartography, it is not a map free of distortion.  All flat maps of curved surfaces are distorted.  The Dymaxion Map distorts in a novel way, but it still distorts.  Fuller claims that after the Dymaxion Map appeared in Life magazine it was described as “pure invention” by “several great experts.”  This description was used by Fuller’s patent attorney to convince the Patent Office Fuller’s work deserved a patent.  Fuller’s patent attorney , Donald W. Robertson, wrote a book on his 25-year association with Fuller titled The Mind’s Eye of Buckminster Fuller.  Fuller’s “pure invention” claim does not appear in The Mind’s Eye.  Robertson quotes Fuller saying “The problem of the navigator is how to sail or fly the shortest course, which on a conventional chart will be a curved line.  I simply design an unconventional chart which is so constructed tha tall future navigators can find their courses as straight lines.  This means that I will need a new kind of map projection in which all great circles of a sphere will be seen as straight lines.”  Fuller claimed that his 1947 world map patent was the first to be granted since 1900, when the U. S. Patent office ruled all possible methods had been considered.  But Allan C. Clark had been granted patent 2,369,103 in February 1945 for “flat map sections which may be detachably assembled upon a support to form globe maps.”  And on 12 December 1924 Samuel W. Balch had been grated patent 1,610,413 for a map with the following features…

For the purposes of navigation it is important to have maps or charts on flat or plane sheets which fulfill three mathematical conditions. First, the construction should be such that it will be convenient to draw on the map the course of the shortest sea-level line between any two points, and to ascertain the latitude and longitude at any intermediate point of the course. Such a line is commonly known as the arc of a great circle and would be if the earth were a true sphere but is in, fact a line to be otherwise defined since the earth approximates closely to a spheroid or ellipsoid of revolution, and will be termed a geodesic line. Second, it should be convenient to ascertain the angle at which any geodesic line crosses any intermediate meridian.

The patent specifies that the Dymaxion Map is “resolved into six equilateral square sections and eight equilateral triangular sections.”  This does not describe the icosohedral Dymaxion Map (known as the Raleigh projection) that is often associated with patent 2,393,676.  Inventions mentions the Dymaxion Map in Life magazine, but not one of the ways in which this “flat map shows [the] world in many perspectives.”  Such as the “Jap Empire.”  “The ruthless logic of the Jap imperialism is exposed by this layout of the Dymaxion World map.”

The Geodesic Dome is called Building Construction in patent 2,682,235 (29 June 1954).  The photograph on page 128 was taken inside the Climatron in St. Louis, Missouri USA.  The photograph on page 138-139 was taken outside the U. S. Pavilion at the Montreal World’s Fair.  It is unknown where the photographs on pages 132, 1134-135 were taken.  This U. S. patent was granted on 29 June 1954.  The first patent for a geodesic dome was awarded to Walter Bauersfeld (1879-1959) in 1925.  Bauersfeld’s patent is Reichspatentamt Patentschrift Nr. 415395 Klasse 37a Gruppe 2.  A patent for Insulation for Spherical Tank Shells and Methods for Making the Same (2,470,986) was granted to J. O. Jackson on 24 May 1947.  Jackson’s patent describes the faces of an icosahedron divided into any number of triangles, the projection of the vertices of these triangles outward until they intersect with the surface of a sphere, then connecting the points of intersection with radial lines forming the chords of great circles.  The resulting “dome-like” structure is described as “less troublesome, costly, and wasteful” as conventional structures.  Jackson’s patent, in turn, makes reference to patent 2,424,601 - Icosahedral Map by J. E. Crouch, granted on 29 July 1947.

The Paperboard Dome is called Building Construction in patent 2,881,717 (14 April 1959).  The photograph on page 146 features the 1954 Quantico / Milan dome, which can be seen in illustrations 426-433 of Dymaxion World.  The twenty-foot paperboard dome and the Lower East Side gang that built it mentioned by Fuller is described at lenght in CHARAS by Syeus Mottel.

The Plydome is called Self-Strutted Geodesic Plydome in patent 2,905,113 (22 September 1959).  Dymaxion World illustrations 435-442 show other plydomes.  The Geodesic Plydome chapel of Colombian Fathers in illustration 447 was built in 1957.

The Catenary (Geodesic Tent) is called Geodesic Tent in patent 2,914,074 (24 November 1959).  The Alaskan dome mentioned by Fuller was built by Synergetics Inc. of Raleigh NC USA in 1956.  The 100-foot diameter dome was erected, disassembled, shipped and re-assembled in Afghanistan, Algeria, El Salvador (twice), France, Osaka (Japan), Peru, Syria, Thailand, Tokyo (Japan) and Uruguay before its use in the 1967 Alaskan Centennial.  This was one of the most field-tested domes ever made and there is no record of it having given sub-standard performance at any time.  One wonders what the town of Fairbanks did with the dome after it was disassembled.  The second Dymaxion Car vanished for decades.  Perhaps the Alaska dome will likewise make a dramatic reappearance.

The Octet Truss is called Synergetic Building Construction in patent 2,986,241 (30 May 1961).  Fuller claims that he owned a trademark, copyright and patent on the octet truss and that this was granted in part because he had shipped the structure across state lines.  Shipping an invention across state lines is not generally a prerequisite for being granted a patent.  In Genius At Work: Images of Alexander Graham Bell by Dorothy Harley Eber, Fuller claims to have been unaware of Bell’s octahedron-tetrahedron towers and kites.  Bell was granted patent 856,838 for Connecting Device for the Frames of Aeriel Vehicles and Other Structures on 11 June 1907. This patent shows an modular octahedral-tetrahedral system “adaptable to a great variety of structural uses.”  The octet truss is in use in the International Space Station, as Fuller claimed it would be.  Closer to home, lighting rigs in theaters often use an octet-truss structure.

Tensegrity is called Tensile-Integrity Structures in 3,063,521 (13 November 1962).  Non-Symetrical Tensegrity is called Non-Symetrical Tension-Integrity Structures in 3,866,366 (18 February 1975).  Buckminster Fuller invented the word tensegrity, but the structure described as a tensegrity was invented by Kenneth Snelson.  Both of these patents cite Dymaxion World, and illustration 265 in Dymaxion World mentions Snelson.  The sculpture on page 179 was made by students at the University of Oregon in 1959.  The sculpture on pages 184-185 was made by students at North Carolina State College in 1950.  The sculpture on page 190 is claimed to have been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1959 but perhaps instead it was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in that same year, along with a geodesic dome and octet trus sculpture.  At no time has either of these patents been used in architecture, be it a home, a bridge, a garden shed, a dog house or any other sort of shelter.  Tensegrities are fascinating sculptures but so far have no use in architecture.

The Submarisle (Undersea Island) is called an Undersea Island in patent 3,080,583 (12 March 1963).  The world has yet to see giant cargo submarines in need of submarisle docks.  But drug runners are using very small submarines to transport their goods in the early 21st Century.  Jacques Cousteau’s Conshelf Two housed ten researchers and had an underwater submarine dock in 1963.

The Aspension (Suspension Building) is called a Suspension Building in patent 3,139,957 (7 July 1964).  This is another invention by Fuller that has never been utilized commercially, although aspension structures exist as models.

The Monohex (Geodesic Structures) is called Geodesic Structures in patent 3,197,927 (3 August 1965).  The photograph on pages 216-217 show the 50′ Fly’s Eye dome built by John Warren.  Additional photograph of this dome can be found on pages 210-211 of Buckyworks by J. Baldwin.  It is unknown where the photographs on pages 222-223 were taken.

The Laminar Dome is called a Laminar Geodesic Dome in patent 3,203,144 (31 August 1965).  The photograph on page 229 shows the same radome in illustration 415 of Dymaxion World, built by Western Electric.

The Star Tensegrity (Octahedral Truss) is called an Octahedral Building Truss in patent 3,354,591 (28 November 1967).  The photograph on page 248 shows the Union Carbide Tank Car Company Dome in Baton Rouge, LA USA.  This dome was constructed in 1958 and demolished in 2007.

The Rowing Needles (Watercraft) is called a Watercraft in patent 3,524,422 (18 August 1970).  Inventions does not give the filing date, which was 28 March 1968.  In Dymaxion World illustration 298 this is called a minor invention of 1947.  In Grunch of Giants, Fuller claims the rowing needles were invented in 1938 and prototyped in 1954.  Catamarans and outrigger canoes have existed since before recorded history.

The Floating Breakwater is patent 4,136,994 (4 February 1975) and the Floatable Breakwater is patent 3,863,455 (30 January 1979).  Fuller claims that he produced Floatable Breakwaters but there are no photographs of them in InventionsInventions does not give the filing date for either of these patents, which were 19 September 1977 and 10 December 1973 respectively.    Dozens of floating breakwater patents, some generating power like Fuller’s Floatable Breakwater, predate Fuller’s patents.  Lancelot Kirkup was granted patent 226,663 for his breakwater “loaded so to float that its greatest diameter will be about at the water line” on 20 April 1880.

The Hanging Storage Shelf Unit is patent 4,377,114 (22 March 1983).  Inventions does not give the filing date, which was 5 October 1981.  Fuller claims the hanging storage shelf unit was built and used in a bookstore, perhaps the unit shown in the photograph on page 295.  The book on the shelf in that photograph is The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller, thus the photograph could have been taken no earlier than 1973.  The hanging storage shelf unit is not unlike the 1944 criss-cross tensionally supported table found in illustration 300 in Dymaxion World.

Part two of this essay will feature patents found in Inventions that were shared.  Some shared patents were invented by Fuller and assigned to others, some were not made by Fuller but appear in Inventions nonetheless, some were not made by Fuller but should have appeared in Inventions.  Part three of this essay will feature inventions by Fuller that were not patented or which do not appear in Inventions, the most lost of all of the lost inventions of Buckminster Fuller.

- Trevor Blake

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

Tags: , ,

Friday, February 27th, 2009 Uncategorized


[1] The synchronofile is a private collection of printed work by and about R. Buckminster Fuller, owned by Trevor Blake and located in Portland, OR USA. Access to researchers available by appointment. [2] synchronofile.com is a publisher of works by and about R. Buckminster Fuller.