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Credit for Bucky’s Co-Worker

In response to:

Fabrication & Bucky Fuller from the October 9, 2008 issue

To the Editors:

In his engaging overview of Buckminster Fuller, part genius and part confidence man, Martin Filler delivers a full-length portrait of a subject who could at once win over an audience with childlike charm and then proceed to repel it with solipsistic self-obsession [ NYR, October 9].

It is well known that Bucky rarely erred on the side of generosity when it came to acknowledging the contribution of co-workers in joint endeavors. Thus, Mr. Filler is hardly the first commentator on things Dymaxion to cite the novel, if ill-fated, 1934 three-wheeled vehicle as “Fuller’s…‘2’ 4D Transport,” when in fact the Dymaxion car was the collaborative effort of Fuller and the eminent naval architect W. Starling Burgess.

When I had occasion to meet Fuller at his office in 1977, I gestured to a photograph of the Dymaxion car on the wall, cheekily asking him if Burgess had been the co- designer. “Oh yes,” he conceded with a smile, “a brilliant man.”

John H. Gilchrist

Unity, Maine

Martin Filler replies:

I am most grateful to Mr. Gilchrist for reintroducing the name of W. Starling Burgess, whose role in the creation of the Dymaxion Car was mentioned nowhere in the Whitney Museum’s Fuller exhibition or catalog. Whatever Fuller’s skills as a structural engineer, his sudden debut as an automotive engineer ought to have raised questions about the likely participation of more qualified specialists, and it is always gratifying to see unjustly unrecognized collaborators of more famous designers finally get their historical due.

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