Like-minded Visionaries: Marshall McLuhan and Buckminster Fuller


McLuhan & “Bucky” Fuller at the Bahamas Conference (1969), Photo by Robert Fleming.

Marshall McLuhan’s 105th birthday will be next Thursday, July 21, which will be celebrated by those around the world who still care about his ideas and legacy. One year ago, the Buckminster Fuller Institute acknowledged McLuhan’s birthday by posting the following 1964 letter from McLuhan to Fuller on their Facebook page:-

Happy 104th birthday, Marshall McLuhan! McLuhan was a visionary Canadian media theorist who predicted the internet 30 years before its invention.

Today we celebrate his friendship with Bucky – check out the fascinating letter and photos below. McLuhan dubbed Bucky the “Leonardo DaVinci of our time”.

“September 17th, 1964

Dear Bucky:

I was not at all happy about missing the seminar this summer. There was too much on the plate here.

Have a good deal of luck in analyzing various problems lately. I enclose a note on one of these. If one says that any new technology creates a new environment, that is better than saying the medium is the message. The content of the new environment is always the old one. The content is greatly transformed by the new technology.

Supersonic flight will create a new environment which makes our present cities somewhat useless. In fact, if they are to be approached within any convenient distance at all, they will have to be “roofed over.” Supersonic take-off and landing alike blow the glass out of a city, so your Dymaxion Dome becomes a necessity, just as much as the road is a necessity for the wheel. One environment creates another.

Would appreciate your suggestions about readings in the matter of technology as creator of environment. Today the environment itself becomes the artefact. The consequences for learning are quite extraordinary. The prepared environment separates the old curriculum.

Warm regards,

Marshall McLuhan”

Buckminster Fuller and McLuhan

Buckminster Fuller & Marshall McLuhan in front of René Cera’s painting Pied Pipers All (Image: Dick Darrell/Getstock) See .

The following comments are Bucky Fuller’s reminiscences about his first meeting with McLuhan, from his Everything I Know, “an extraordinary series of lectures concerning his entire life’s work”, published online by the Buckminster Fuller Institute ).

I first met Marshall McLuhan in Greece, thirteen years ago, and it was on board of a ship, and he somebody spoke to me, and I turned around and realized who it was, so he called to me, and he had two of my books in his hands, and one was NINE CHAINS TO THE MOON and he was just he said “This is my Bible,” and if you ask Marshall about this he’ll tell you his extensions to man, and so forth, came out of this he had the electrical extensions of man and then got into, this brought him into ways of talking about the communication system whatever it may be. But Marshall said, “Bucky, your expressions are old fashioned, and I have a lingo,” so when I talk to you about man backing up into his future, he said, “Bucky it’s called rear-mirrorism.” So he gave me titles. Marshall will tell you this, he really said, and deliberately said, he was enlarging on my ideas. We’re very, very good friends, and these things we’ve said very much out loud on the stage platform together, so that I know what I’m I’m not saying something is offensive. He says that he’s an English scholar, literature scholar, and his memory, incidentally, is incredible of things he has read, and he began to feel that a great many people who he read many books which society didn’t know about, and society was missing some very important things, so he decided really, taking things he had read about that other people had written and began to get society to know about it. But he gets so enthusiastic that he didn’t necessarily always say, I am extending this person’s idea. His idea he began to make it his own as he began to develop it, which is very reasonable. But he is a man of integrity, so if you check with him about it, he will say, yes, that is correct. That his enthusiasm carried away and he forgot to give footnotes of where he got that. Source: 

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