Richard Buckminster Fuller 1895 - 1983
I tend to be a binge reader. During 2005 my focus of this excess was Fuller. I'm still not done but at least I'm reading other things these days.
Thanks of course to the internet my interest in geodesic structures and polyhedral forms quickly led me straight to Fuller. Before that I might have been able to say, 'wasn't he the dome guy?' which is about all I get from people most of the time.
Turns out there is much, much more to the contribution that this man made. I'd go so far as to maintain that he's as yet a still somewhat undiscovered messiah. When the dust has settled people will look back and realize he said it first but nobody was listening.
Spectacular successes, more spectacular failures, audacious propositions, anti-government essays and an alien geometry which overrides Decartes like Einstein did Newton renders Bucky as a tireless and enigmatic prophet.
Fuller was a philosopher and a poet. 'Specialization is slavery', he said. Yet in our modern world who doesn't want to specialize. How else are you going to make a lot of money?
I don't think there's anything wrong with being very, very good at something. But when the price paid for that skill is to the extreme detriment of other skills and virtues then there's an unhealthy imbalance. Society inculcates us with the opinion that academic specialization is the highest virtue. But the successful, professional academic is also trapped. Perhaps he must relocate in order to get a job in his field. Perhaps he's become so focused on his particular field that he find himself ignorant of much else.
To Fuller being a comprehensivist was a higher virtue. And he doesn't mean knowing just a little about a lot - he means knowing a lot about a lot. It's not that hard if one applies oneself.
In the '70s Fuller was outspoken regarding the myth of scarcity. Even now, in 2006 with over 6 billion people we can say that the Earth could easily support us all if only we were'nt so stupid with our efforts. Read 'Grunch of Giants' for the original conspiracy theory.
And then there's his math, Synergetics. I'm still working on this one. Fuller's fundamental tetrahedral coordinate system which provides an alternate geometry for describing natural phenomena. Suffice it to say that within it is contained a wondrous world of truths to which most everyone is blind. Simplistic or sublime - with Fuller the two are often synonymous.
Fuller, Anthology for a New Millennium - Thomas T.K. Zung
Critical Path - Buckminster Fuller
Grunch of Giants - Buckminster Fuller
Bucky Works - J. Baldwin
Buckminster Fuller's Universe - Lloyd Steven Sieden
Earth, Inc. - Buckminster Fuller
Your Private Sky, The Art of Design Science - Buckminster Fuller
Synergetics - Buckminster Fuller
Zomad says think outside the tetrahedron.