Buckminster Fuller

People who like tools should study his work.

He was a 'tool' man.

Buckminster Fuller passed away in the 1980's but he was a visionary. I couldn't possibly begin to describe the extent of his genius but know that in the 1930's, he designed a 'space-age' looking car (designed to be extraordinarily aerodynamic for that time period) which seated approximately 11-13 people and got over 30 miles per gallon of gas.

The car was built on a Ford Model A chassis and the body was aluminum.

Now, this is the point where it is good to know some history. Aluminum was not a cost effective material in the 1930's. It did not become cost effective until all the major hydroelectric plants were up and running (It takes a LOT of electricity to produce new aluminum--20 times more energy to produce than to recycle) and by then the world was embroiled in World War II.

But the fact that he designed and built the cars in the 1930's is simply amazing.

And, because I've studied some of his work, I thought that guys would be interested to know that he made some unusual observations about men and women and their abilities to communicate.

Because he trained as a tool man, he worked with some of the finest machinists of his day (he was born in 1895). He noted that a man might be the finest tradesman in the community but have almost no ability to communicate with other people. He attributed this to a number of things:

  • men tended to work alone (whereas women tended to work in groups)

  • most people still had limited 'formal' education

  • unless you were in a formal apprenticeship program, you learned the things you learned based on the people around you, the tools and resources you had available and the things you needed to get done

He noted that for men, he saw a dramatic shift in men's ability to communicate verbally (recognize, he saw people's value in terms of their mastery and craftsmanship in their work) when radios came into communities. And then of course, as more boys got 'formal' educations, there was another leap.

This man could have been my grandfather so I always try to remember to see people in terms of their mastery and craftsmanship in their work. After all, one of my own grandfathers was a 'tool' man.