Richard Buckminster Fuller was a 20th century inventor and visionary who did not limit himself to one field but worked as a 'comprehensive anticipatory design scientist' to solve global problems. Fuller's ideas and work continue to influence new generations of designers, architects, scientists and artists working to create a sustainable planet.
The geodesic dome
Fuller was most famous for his lattice shell structures – geodesic domes, which have been used as parts of military radar stations, civic buildings, environmental protest camps and exhibition attractions. An examination of the geodesic design by Walther Bauersfeld for the Zeiss-Planetarium, built some 20 years prior to Fuller's work, reveals that Fuller's Geodesic Dome patent, follows the same design as Bauersfeld's.
Their construction is based on extending some basic principles to build simple "tensegrity" structures (tetrahedron, octahedron, and the closest packing of spheres), making them lightweight and stable. The geodesic dome was a result of Fuller's exploration of nature's constructing principles to find design solutions. The Fuller Dome is referenced in the Hugo Award-winning novel Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner, in which a geodesic dome is said to cover the entire island of Manhattan, and it floats on air due to the hot-air balloon effect of the large air-mass under the dome (and perhaps its construction of lightweight materials).
Fuller was awarded 28 United States patents and many honorary doctorates. In 1960, he was awarded the Frank P. Brown Medal from The Franklin Institute. Fuller was elected as an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa in 1967, on the occasion of the 50th year reunion of his Harvard class of 1917 (from which he was expelled in his first year).He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1968.In 1968 he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member, and became a full Academician in 1970. In 1970 he received the Gold Medal award from the American Institute of Architects. He also received numerous other awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom presented to him on February 23, 1983 by President Ronald Reagan.