This article was originally published on Common Edge.
Today we know R. Buckminster Fuller primarily through his oeuvre of iconic objects and ideas created over the arc of a nearly 90-year life. Born in the last decade of the 19th century, Fuller lived long enough to hang out with Steve Jobs. He’s variously described as a “systems thinker,” perhaps the first “futurist,” a visionary, engineer, geometer, and architect (he won the AIA Gold Medal in 1970). But “inventor” is probably the most accurate description. Historian and writer Alec Nevala-Lee’s 2022 biography, aptly titled Inventor of the Future: The Visionary Life of Buckminster Fuller (Dey St. Books), tells a nuanced story of the man known for geodesic domes; space frames; “Spaceship Earth”; the Dymaxion map, house, and car; and concepts such as tensegrity, synergy, and “ephemeralization” (“doing everything with nothing at all,” as he described it).