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Tensegrity Tower: First email from Kenneth Snelson

Date: Sun, 18 Apr 1999 17:33:16 -0500
To: Bob Burkhardt <>
From: Kenneth Snelson
Subject: Your website

Dear Bob Burkhardt,

It's been two or three months since I've visited the website that Kirby Urner kindly set up for me a couple of years ago. I was surprised to see what seemed to me to be a new link -- have no idea how long the URL to your site has been there but somehow I've overlooked it until this evening.

It's not unusual whenever I encounter Bucky devotees to hear the echo of his inclination to misrepresent or garble the truth. For this reason I shouldn't have been surprised to find my three-way tower, taken directly from my 1960-65 patent #3,169,611 ( see fig. 25 in the attached jpg of patent figures) plagiarized in your website with no acknowledgement at all that it's my work you've copied. Especially to call it a "tensgrity MAST"! That's not its name nor its proper descriptive title -- and nowhere in Bucky's work can you find such a structure although his cult people often take my "Needle Tower" at the Hirshhorn for illustration purposes and invariably manage to attach Fuller's name to it.

It has puzzled me over the years me why the Bucky disease is contageous as it is, I mean stealing the work of others then obfuscating the truth that it was pirated; in his case, making things worse by a fig-leaf of renaming it with his own personalized label. "Tensegrity Mast" for example.

I don't doubt you are a person of good character. You could demonstrate it as an honest scholar by carefully giving proper credit at your website and in your writing.

Another point, one having to do with facts about tensegrity domes: They are, of all its various forms, essentially flaccid. To suggest that they provide a key to architectural solutions quite misrepresents their nature. The domes have been around -- with any number of ingenious modifications, including double shell types -- for nearly half a century. Numbers of smart and imaginative engineers have attempted to put them to use in the decades since they first appeared. It is only the naive and uninitiated who uncritically repeat Bucky's false claims about the tensegrity dome's structural performance.


Kenneth Snelson

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