Buckminster Fuller recalled 1927 as a pivotal year of his life. Fuller was still feeling responsible for the death of his daughter Alexandra, who had died in 1922 from complications from polio and spinal meningitis. just prior to her fourth birthday.Fuller felt a personal responsibility for her death, wondering if her death may have been caused by the damp and drafty home which the Fullers had been living in.This provided motivation for Fuller’s involvement in Stockade Building Systems, a business which aimed to provide affordable, efficient housing.
In 1927 Fuller, then aged 32, lost his job as president of Stockade. The Fuller family had no savings to fall back upon, and the birth of their daughter Allegra in 1927 added to the financial challenges. Fuller was drinking heavily and reflecting upon the solution to his family’s struggles on long walks around Chicago. During the autumn of 1927, Fuller contemplated suicide, so that his family could benefit from a life insurance payment.
Fuller said that he had experienced a profound incident which would provide direction and purpose for his life. He felt as though he was suspended several feet above the ground enclosed in a white sphere of light. A voice spoke directly to Fuller, and declared:
From now on you need never await temporal attestation to your thought. You think the truth. You do not have the right to eliminate yourself. You do not belong to you. You belong to Universe. Your significance will remain forever obscure to you, but you may assume that you are fulfilling your role if you apply yourself to converting your experiences to the highest advantage of others
Fuller stated that this experience led to a profound re-examination of his life. He ultimately chose to embark on “an experiment, to find what a single individual [could] contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity
Speaking to audiences later in life, Fuller would regularly recount the story of his Lake Michigan experience, and its transformative impact on his life. Historians have been unable to identify direct evidence for this experience within the 1927 papers of Fuller’s Chronofile archives, housed at Stanford University. Stanford historian Barry Katz suggests that the suicide story may be a myth which Fuller constructed later in life, to summarize this formative period of his career