Wizard of the Dome Essay - Critical Context

Sidney Rosen

Critical Context

Typically, the lives of scientists written for young adults are based on the assumption that any scientific advance is for the world’s good. Such an assumption seems reasonable; a reader of the life of Thomas Edison would hardly object to the belief that the invention of the light bulb was a boon to humankind. Yet, further develop-ments in the twentieth century made such easy faith less tenable. A reader would probably not as readily agree that Albert Einstein’s discoveries were purely beneficial, as they helped bring to birth nuclear weapons.

Fuller did not believe that science was necessarily virtuous. He believed that he must create even his most theoretical ideas with a concern for world betterment. In keeping with this philosophy, Rosen’s biography jockeys back and forth between descriptions of Fuller’s scientific advances and his thoughts on how they were to be applied practically.

Another difference separating Fuller’s biography from those of more conventional scientists is that these books generally put forward their subjects as models to be imitated in spirit but not in deed. It would not make sense for a reader to duplicate the experiments of Marie Curie, for example. By contrast, as Fuller’s plans were never achieved, he can serve both as spiritual and practical inspiration. His ambitions were never fully realized because they involved both scientific and social innovation. It was not enough for him to build a few houses or skyscrapers; Fuller planned cities, and, in the back of his mind, he was planning a world. Thus, his life can remain a touchstone for young visionaries imagining an improved future.