Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Entry #185: Buckminster Fuller, Renaissance Man

A Unitarian Universalist at heart, Buckminster Fuller is one of those past characters of history that makes you realize that you can do a lot in life-- he was an inventor, scientist, engineer, mathematician, educator, philosopher, poet, speaker, author, consultant, economist, futurist, etc. Twice expelled from Harvard University, Fuller later went on the receive 47 honorary degrees.

Fuller, however, is best known for the invention of the geodesic dome –the lightest, strongest, and most cost-effective structure ever devised. Behind the dome's seemingly simple structure is a series of mathematical equations based on vector geometry.

"Typically the design of a geodesic dome begins by selecting one of the Platonic solids, such as an icosahedron inscribed in a sphere, conceptually filling up each triangular face with a set of smaller triangles, and then projecting each face onto the interior surface of the sphere. The endpoints of the links of the completed sphere would then be the projected endpoints on the sphere's surface."

Fuller also coined a number of terms including "Spaceship Earth."

He went on to develop a cartographic system that showed continents on a flat surface with minimal distortion. Additionally, the map had no correct orientation, as Fuller argued that "up" and down as well as North, South, East, and West didn't actually exist. Fuller believe that there were two things-- "in" and "out," with "in" being the pull of objects toward Earth because of gravity.

His map, also known as a "Dymaxion Map" was made for easy display of world resources and it "allows players to strategize solutions to global problems, matching human needs with the resources."

Fuller has written 28 books that explore how all of humanity could have high living standards. In addition to his many honorary degrees, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Ronald Reagan in 1981. Last but not least, the U.S. Postal Service has just released a commemorative stamp in his honor. My hero!