Buckminster Fuller failed in business many times and wanted to end it all. He walked to the waterfront, ready to throw himself in, when he had an epiphany.
What if he dedicated his life to others?
“I sought to use myself as my scientific ‘guinea pig’ in a lifelong experiment designed to discover what — if anything — a healthy young male human of average size, experience, and capability, with an economically dependent wife and child, starting without capital or any kind of wealth, cash savings, credit, or university degree, could effectively do that could not be done be great nations or great private enterprise to lastingly improve the physical protection and support of all human lives.”
He studied any and all fields which might help in his quest — science, engineering, design, geometry, architecture, cartography, education. He recorded his findings scrupulously for over fifty years.
Like autodidacts before him — Da Vinci, Franklin, Twain — Fuller never graduated from college. Still, he was awarded 28 patents and many honorary doctorates, even becoming the second World President of Mensa from 1974 to 1983.
He coined the phrase “spaceship Earth” — reminding us of the truth. We’re passengers who inherited a ship with no operating manual.
He invented the geodesic dome — the large golf ball shaped structure at Disney Epcot — as a low cost shelter. You can stack them like cups and deliver them by helicopter.
And he penned these lines: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
But most importantly, he challenged a generation of creators to make our technology feed, clothe, and shelter 100% of humanity.
His influence lives on in the Buckminster Fuller Institute. Their yearly $100,000 prize has been called “socially responsible design’s highest award” and helps fund the next generation of visionaries.