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December 23rd, 2005

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10:37 am - Getting to know R. Buckminster Fuller
trurl wrote to me yesterday:
I figure you can probably recommend to me the best book on/by Buckminster Fuller
As some of you know, R. Buckminster Fuller is an idol of mine, and has been the subject of much research on my part. Geoff's is a good question, and in replying, I figured I should make the answer available to the Internets. Mine is the opinion of someone with an extensive exposure but without any insider influence.

There is a pretty big difference between what the best book on and a best book by Fuller is.

Fuller was a creative non-conforming genius, and these traits were magnified on the written page. Although the author of a dozen or more books, they may not be the right primary sources to approach first. One does not go out on a limb to say that his writing becomes inaccessible at times ("extensively improvised vocabulary"). For the most approachable "Books By Bucky", my recommendation is to start with either Critical Path or Grunch of Giants. The latter is free online, courtesy of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, who are finally putting a number of his books online. For a flavor of how his genius and unique outlook played with the world, either Tetrascoll: Goldilocks and the Three Bears or I Seem to be a Verb are short and fun. His most important written work is the two volume Synergetics (free online) -- but it isn't for the non-devoted.

The best primary sources for Fuller are recordings and transcripts of his famous lectures. One phenominal resource is Everything I Know (BFI version). In 1975 he presented a series of lectures covering... everything he had done... in a total of 42 hours. Now the transcript, with video clips, is freely available.

As for the best book on Buckminster Fuller...

BuckyWorks is beautiful and very approachable. If you read only one thing about Fuller, that would probably be my recommendation. It isn't anywhere near complete, it is just a quick survey, but it gives you a taste and a sense for why someone like me would find him Important. I haven't read it yet, but Buckminster Fuller's Universe: His Life and Work is a newer, longer summary that looks well received.

And for other media...

There is a one-man play, R. Buckminster Fuller: THE HISTORY (and Mystery) OF THE UNIVERSE, that just closed in San Francisco. zkhan, ommkarja and I saw it in Chicago 4.5 years ago. If I could buy a script or video of the production, I would. PBS had a great television special, Thinking Out Loud.

But the Internet is the best resource. Despite the impressive collection of patents, Fuller was a big proponent of information exposure. As a result, a lot of his works have been put online either through the Institute, or through individual initiative.

Top Four Links:

  1. Buckminster Fuller Institute

  2. Buckminster Fuller Virtual Institute

  3. RW Gray's Note's on R. Buckminster Fuller's Work

  4. Synergetics on the Web

I own a variety of his works, I am happy to loan books, tapes, or videos.

(2 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:December 24th, 2005 05:33 pm (UTC)
he definitely sounds like the sort of person I'd like to know more about. I'll pick up BuckyWorks book next time I get a chance (though I doubt I will have time to read it any time soon).
Date:December 25th, 2005 07:12 pm (UTC)
Neat. Thanks.

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