In 1927 at the age of 32, bankrupt and jobless, living in inferior housing in Chicago, Illinois, he saw his beloved young daughter Alexandra die of the complications of polio and spinal meningitis. He felt responsible, and this drove him to drink and to the verge of suicide. At the last moment he decided instead to embark on “an experiment, to find what a single individual can contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.”
He strove to inspire humanity to take a comprehensive view of the finite world we live in and the infinite possibilities for an ever-increasing standard of living within it. Deploring waste, he explored and advocated a principle that he termed “ephemeralization” — which in essence Fuller coined to mean “doing more with less.” Wealth can be increased by recycling resources into newer, higher value products whose more technically sophisticated design requires less material. In practice, it has often meant miniaturization, for example, as when table-model calculating machines were succeeded over time by smaller ones, until the calculator of today fits in one’s hand. Fuller also introduced synergetics, which explores holistic engineering structures in nature (long before the term synergy became popular).