7. Buckminster Fuller and the geodesic dome
In the late 1940s, Buckminster Fuller was a teacher at Black Mountain College during the summer sessions. With the support of some of his students, as well as other faculty members Fuller began, in 1948, experiments in design and material which led to the creation of the geodesic dome. His goal was the creation of a structure which could fully support its own weight, and early prototypes proved popular due to their futuristic appearance. They also benefited from the growing belief in UFOs which appeared as flying saucers, a shape which some of his domes shared. Eventually Fuller was awarded more than two dozen US patents, and gained international renown as the inventor of the geodesic dome.
In fact, he was not its inventor. That distinction belongs to Walther Bauersfeld, a German builder and engineer who designed and built planetariums. Bauersfeld built the Zeiss I Planetarium in Jena, Germany, completing the structure in 1923. It was the first geodesic dome built in the shape of the icosahedron, later popularized and patented by Fuller. More than two and a half decades later Fuller appropriated the design, claimed it for himself, and patented it. In 1954 Fuller was awarded US patent number 2,682,235 for his design of the Geodesic Dome, though later analysis indicated that the design is the same as Bauersfeld’s, and that Fuller did not acknowledge his predecessor’s work.