What Do Alexander Graham Bell, Buckminster Fuller, and Bill Gates have in Common?

They’re ripoff artists. They appropriated the works of others without due credit. In a new book, The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell’s Secret, author Seth Shulman says that Bell bribed a patent examiner to get a look at the work of rival Elisha Gray and was erroneously credited with filing first. (This from an article in the S.F. Chronicle on Dec. 31. 2007.) Buckminster Fuller, who patented the geodesic dome in 1955, was preceded some 30 years by the world’s first geodesic dome in Jena, Germany in 1922. The true inventor was Dr. Walter Bauersfeld. I did some investigative reporting in 1973 and wrote about this in our book Shelter in the same year: https://www.telacommunications.com/geodome.htm and am happy to see (when doing a Google search for “jena/bauersfeld/geodesic,” Bauersfled is now credited with his invention.

And of course Bill Gates and Microsoft have repeatedly lifted ideas from the best and brightest, usually without credit or recompense, to patch together the Windows operating system and reap the rewards of other people’s work.

A book could be written on the subject, something like “Credit Where Due.” An intriguing example of this is the work of Francesco di Giorgio Martini, born 13 years before Leonardo da Vinci. Di Martini was a painter, sculptor, military architect and engineer in Siena who designed an amazing number of gizmos, including weight-moving and -lifting machines; water-raising devices; mills; and carriages with complex transmission systems. The similarity of much of da Vinci’s work to that of Francesco is striking. “In 1490, summoned by the Duke of Milan to give an opinion on architectural matters, Francesco met the young Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo, struck by the competence of his senior colleague, carefully studied Francesco’s Treatise on Architecture, in which he made some manuscript annotations.” Click here for a ton of drawings and models of Francesco’s work at the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence, Italy.

Treadmill-powered grinding mill

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

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