Saturday, January 14, 2006

Bucky Bucks Failure

A man was born in the late nineteenth century. This man was kicked out of college not once, but twice. He worked in a textile mill and as a meatpacker during this time. After a stint in the First World War, he tried to have success with a company dealing in affordable and light-weight housing. This failed.

At this time, it was the dark height of the Great Depression --- the early 1930's. He was bankrupt and unemployed, living in a certain degree of squalor with inferior tenement housing in Chicago. His daughter died of pneumonia, and our yet-unnamed protagonist felt as if he were the responsible agent --- if he had been a better provider, he could've provided a better home, and perhaps she wouldn't have caught the pneumonia. He then turned to the bottle, which exacerbated his depression and sense of being a total failure.

This is where my memory goes a bit fuzzy. I believe he was standing one winter's night on a bridge somewhere in Chicago, and was ready to end it all. He was, after all, a failure in business, a failure in education, a failure in being a husband and father [at least in his mind]. He was a capital-F Failure in every sense of the word.

At the last minute, for reasons that I do not know, he recanted his suicidal urge. Since he had nothing to lose, for he had not succeded in any tangible way, he decided instead to turn himself into a human guinea pig --- "Guinea Pig B" was how he later described himself. The experiment was to be a lifelong experiment: "to find what a single individual can contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity."

What could such a loser --- indeed, a loser who had nearly committed suicide --- do in the grand human scale of things?


This little PP blog isn't the place to list everything he's done, but we can attempt to list a few of this man's accomplishments [in no special order].

(1) The geodesic dome, which encloses the greatest amount of [cubic] space relative to a given material weight.

(2) The Dymaxion Car, which, so far as I know, is not in any sort of production, but which had a then unheard-of fuel efficiency.

(3) A personal favorite of mine is the Dymaxion Map. I hope that people's browsers let them see the animation from this page. The point of the map is that it avoids the distortion in landmass size for landmasses far away from the equator, such as the extreme distortions given to Greenland and Antarctica by the standard Mercator cartographic projection map.

(4) The Dymaxion House [also the "Bucky House"]. A lightweight, inexpensive, and fairly functional sort of housing or sheltering. Again, I do not personally know if these are in any sort of production anywhere.

When I was a junior-high kid in 8th grade [in the glorious 80's] my mother, for reasons unknown to me, bought me two books by our as-of-yet-unnamed protagonist: Synergetics and Synergetics 2. Those books are boxed up [along with most of my life] in a storage unit nearby, but a perusal of those books shows that the man had some very deep perceptions into the nature of space and the universe, particularly with [I'm struggling for words here] the "tetrahedralness" of many natural phenomena. [That is my neologism.] Despite having a PhD in a mathematical science, I believe that going through his books in the present would still be a real grind-out affair on my part.

I also read his Spaceship Earth, also known as Operating Manual to Spaceship Earth. If I'm remembering the right title, I remember reading one page and thinking that he was a socialist, but then I'd be overwhelmed at his broad visionary thinking. I don't know if his ideas would work in practice regarding transportation, city design, etc, but one should appreciate the fact that he can think through such things.

I've only read a few of his books, so I claim no special expertise in him, merely an appreciation based on what I read over the years [and tried to understand].


Can you guess who our Man of Mystery is WITHOUT an internet search? Who is the man who went from suicide attemptee to full professor in Art and Design, a world-famous man with several honorary doctorates?

Answer: he was known as "Bucky." More formally, he was none other than Richard Buckminster Fuller, or, as he wrote, R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983). He was the "Guinea Pig B" --- Bucky the Human Guinea Pig --- in his experiment as mentioned above.

What's the point of this post? There is no hidden point, but I thought it would be interesting to make note of somebody who, by all accounts, was a miserable failure into his thirties, but you'd never know it based on his accomplishments afterwards. You'd think he was groomed for success and fame from day one.

Hopefully, this post is interesting enough to make up for a slow posting week!!


Blogger kletois said...

I have to admit that I had a pretty good idea who the mystery person was from the title - whenever I see the word 'bucky' I think 'buckyball'. While these stories are warming to the soul I dont find them too beneficial. Not all losers are Buckminsters, and will end their days as failures. Thankfully we have a better story of hope in salvation by Christ. Even though we might be a failure, once brought in the kingdom of the Son we are placed in a position far greater than anything which can be achieved in this world. To God be the glory.

Sunday, January 15, 2006 7:28:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

There was no "angle" to the post other than "hmmm this might be interesting."

I agree that not all present-day losers are future Buckies, and success can be equally fleeting. This life is ephemeral, obviously.

Sunday, January 15, 2006 8:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Equally in the random and thus potentially useless, but interesting vein...

Look up a man named Thomas Young. My dad gave me a book about him called "The Last Man Who Knew Everything." He lived in the late 1700's--early 1800's.


As a child, young Mr. Young got off to a good start by learning to read by the age of 2, and reading the Bible through by the age of 4. Not too shabby. As a young teen, he was fluent in Greek and Latin--but who wasn't "back in the day?" However, he developed an interest in Eastern languages, and thus went and taught himself Hebrew as well!

Mr. Young went on to become a doctor by trade. Unfortunately, his success as a doctor was rather mediocre. The reason? He was too scientific. In a day and age when medicine was rife with quackery, Mr. Young eschewed the various "cures" such as "bleeding" and sought more scientific methodology.

Where he was more noted was in his vast extracurricular scientific endeavors. He was interested in light, so he did some experiments whereby he disproved Newton's "corpuscle" theory of light and developed the wave theory (yes, I know, "what about photons?"). He also did some development of knowledge of the eye, including determining how the eye focuses (via some interesting self-experimentation). He presented numerous scientific lectures. While doing this, he continued his Eastern language study, and ended up accomplishing seminal work in the deciphering of the Rosetta stone.

When later asked by the editors of the Encyclopedia Brittanica to provide some entries, he offered to provide entries on, among other things, physics, light, the eye, Egyptology, languages, shipbuilding (he was also on the Royal Shipbuilding Board, or something to that effect), insurance, and so forth. Interestingly, he asked that his entries be kept anonymous... apparently, the press had been none too kind with him in his younger years, so he avoided popularity.

Impressive, no? My son is 18-months old and can't read yet... sob... what am I doing wrong? Six months... I need to step it up a notch!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 8:46:00 AM  

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