Ten Surprising Facts to Learn about Buckminster Fuller by Director Sam Green
October 31, 2014
We’re celebrating the 2015 PuSh Festival program launch on November 12 at the Vogue Theatre with The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller, a “live documentary” featuring Academy Award-nominated director Sam Green and legendary indie band Yo La Tengo. It’s set to be a stimulating night of film, live music and storytelling that occupied a space somewhere between old travelogues, the Benshi tradition, and TED talks. But how much do we know about R. Buckminster Fuller, the visionary twentieth-century American futurist, architect, engineer, inventor, and author who experimented tirelessly for fifty years to find out just what a single person could do on behalf of humanity?
We asked director and creator, Sam Green to share some of the most surprising facts he learned about Buckminster Fuller while preparing and touring the show that first premiered in May 2012 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival.
1. He wore three watches – at all times
Buckminster Fuller is said to have worn three watches at all times! This is the lore about Fuller, that he traveled so much that he would wear one watch showing the time of the place he was currently, another watch would have the time of the place he had just been and the third watch would be set at the time of the place he was going to travel next. This was obviously way before we all told time with the iPhone.
I’ve heard this 3-watch thing many, many times, but honestly have never actually seen a photo of it. I’ve looked at thousands of photos of Fuller, so there’s a chance this is apocryphal.
2. His great aunt was a pioneering American feminist
His great aunt was Margaret Fuller a famous 19th century feminist and journalist – she was a friend of Emerson and Thoreau’s and the editor of the famous journal The Dial. She was the first full-time American female book reviewer in journalism. Her book Woman in the Nineteenth Century is considered the first major feminist work in the United States.
3. His main diet was steak, prunes & Jello
For many years, Fuller subsisted on a diet of steak, prunes and Jello. He swore that those foods contained all the nutrition a person needed, and he actually went from being pudgy to looking very svelte during the time.
4. R. Buckminster Fuller was a singer
Here’s a funny clip of him on youtube singing Roam Home to a Dome to the tune of Home on the Range. He even released an LP with musical backing from the Unholy Modal Rounders.
5. His first house was a geodesic dome
Fuller moved to Carbondale, Illinois, in 1959 to take a fancy teaching gig with the University of Southern Illinois. It was here that he and his wife built their own geodesic dome – it was the first time that the Fullers had ever owned their own house. Surprisingly, the dome was put up in a single day. It’s still there.
6. He was pals with John Denver
Here’s a video of John Denver performing What One Man Can Do on the Donahue Show in Denver, Colorado, written for and about R. Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller.
7. Buckminster Fuller and his wife died three days apart, both of natural causes.
8. He once gave a 42-hour long lecture
Buckminster Fuller once gave a lecture series called Everything I know. It was 42-hours long! No notes. Today, you can read all of it online on the Buckminster Fuller Institute’s website.
9. He liked to name things – with gusto!
He was a great namer-of-things. Just looking at some of his book titles you can see that he had a great way with words: Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, Utopia or Oblivion, Untitled Epic Poem on the History of Industrialization, Vertical is to Live – Horizontal is to Die.
10. He condensed Einstein’s works into a single telegram
In 1936 Fuller’s friend the sculptor Isamu Noguchi was working on a mural in Mexico City and needed the exact wording of Einstein’s famous equation (E=MC squared) – this was long before Google! Noguchi sent Fuller a telegram asking about the equation, and Bucky sent back a 264-word response(!) explaining Enstein’s entire theory of relativity. One of the great telegrams ever sent!