GENERAL: R.B. Fuller and Snelson. (more)

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Fuller's works" 26-OCT-1993 02:44:43.20
To: IN%"[email protected]" "Multiple recipients of list GEODESIC"
Subj: RE: Fuller and emergency shelters

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Date: Tue, 26 Oct 1993 00:49:22 EDT
From: Chris Fearnley <[email protected]>
Subject: RE: Fuller and emergency shelters
In-reply-to: Message of Sun,
24 Oct 1993 11:24:00 LCL from <[email protected]>
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On Sun, 24 Oct 1993 11:24:00 LCL Gerry Segal said:
>Chris Fearnley said:
>> I do not believe that Fuller did anything wrong regarding the
>> invention of tensegrity structures - although I have heard this
>> unsubstantiated claim before...For me I honor both men for what is
>> truly remarkable work!
> Mr. Fearnley seems to think that Fuller recognized the
>contribution of Ken Snelson to his discovery of tensegrity which I
>agree is a truly remarkable work and that the two had arrived at a
>harmonious accord. Nothing could be further from that view.
> It is not Mr. Snelson's "artists friends" who object to Fuller's
>taking credit for the discovery but the artist himself. I did a
>rather extensive interview with him for an article I wrote in
>"Science Digest" Magazine in 1984. It is clear that as Mr. Fearnley
>states,Ken Snelson has the patent on the invention. It is also clear
>that no mention is made of Mr. Snelson in Synergetics I and II clearly
>Fuller's seminal work. There is more than one entire chapter devoted
>to tensegrity in these books. Not to mention Snelson is more then an
>oversite, it is blatent self-promotion at the expense of another's
>hard work, and as I state in my initial note doesn't say much about
>the man.

First, it is clear that Fuller discovered the principle of tensegrity.
He introduced the concept to Snelson. What Snelson did that is so
wonderful is he found a way for humans to engineer tensegrity. So it's
nitpicking but in most cases Fuller shouldn't NEED to cite Snelson.
Snelson developed his work along artistic channels, so his work in
tensegrity is (INMHO) more spectacular than Fuller's. [Fuller only did
geodesic and other spherical tensegrities (which he patented); Snelson never
bothered with such trivialities - it built tensegrity towers that appear to
go off to infinity and etc.,] I read some Snelson quotes that suggested that
he respected Fuller, felt they needed to go their separate ways because their
approaches were so different, but I never got the impression that Snelson felt
slighted by fuller in any way. Did Snelson in the interview make a big deal
out of this or are we blowing it out of proportion? Perhaps Snelson was just
making a joke satirically poking fun at how engineers get more credit than

One of my great difficulties regarding Fuller is the virtually complete
lack of citations. I think this stems from his talking approach. I have
experimented with using citations in my speaking. It creates a bland
disjointed presentation. It is much more efficient to to gloss over
citations while speaking. Perhaps we can forgive Fuller's lack of
academic discipline. Perhaps Fuller felt the ideas are more important than
the the history of the ideas. I don't believe that Fuller ever takes credit
for Snelson's work, he just doesn't promote Snelson's work. But when Fuller
gave a lecture in which he wanted to give the history of the invention of
tensegrity, he DID [There is a book about Snelson at the SUNY-Binhamton
library that quotes Fuller giving proper credit. Unfortunately, I am no
longer in Binghamton, forget the books title and couldn't find it here in
Philly last time I looked.] cite Snelson's role. I am not
sure how to evaluate a man. In fact, if given a choice I would
rather avoid the task. But I do not feel
that the case against Fuller the man is so clearcut as you have suggested.

I would like to know how others feel about citations. I never completed a PhD
and so have not developed the discipline of rigorous academic citations. Until
this latest exchange I was leaning towards Fuller's approach to citations, but
I wouldn't want people to consider me a pompous self-promoter for ommiting
them. I just think that ideas are more important than keeping a detailed
history. Isn't that what historians are for? <grin>

> [stuff deleted]
> Gerry Segal
> Director of College Systems
> Bank Street College of Education
> New York, NY
Christopher J. Fearnley
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
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