Catch up effect

Jean Sales nsJohann Goethe nsHenry Adams ns
Jean Sales
(211+ years ahead)
Johann Goethe
(210+ years ahead)
Henry Adams
(134-years ahead)
Three examples of accelerated "active mind" geniuses—namely: Jean Sales, who was imprisoned for his human molecule based moral philosophy, yet visited by Voltaire; Goethe, who for 23-years was not "vouchsafed many kind words" concerning his controversial Elective Affinities; and Henry Adams, coiner of the mental inertia theory, who was so far ahead of his time, in respect to the chemistry, physics, and thermodynamics of human social-history that in 1995 he was still being labeled, in a nearly upside down manner, as "more of a crank than a prophet" (John Diggins)—whose minds were so accelerated, as contrasted with immediate intelligencia, that the educated crowds of the generations to follow, afflicted from a type of myopic mental inertia, were forced to vicariously play a game of “catch up” to their work.
In genius studies, catch up effect refers to the phenomenon that works produced by geniuses, in some cases, have such a significant erudition, acumen, and foresight—or in some cases impenetrability (density)—that the immediate intellectual world (or intelligencia) suffers from a "peculiar myopia" (Morris Zucker, 1945) or "mental inertia" (Henry Adams, 1907), the result of which is that there is a delay or "adjustment period" (Percy Bridgman, 1919), of several years or decades or some cases centuries before the world of the official intellectual elite is able to catch up, mentally, in conceptual assimilation terms, and adjustment or reformulation of belief system, to the work of the said genius.

The pinnacle example of a dense work is the 1876 appearance American engineer Willard Gibbs' science changing On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances, which he mailed to a significant number (see: Gibbs mailing list) of the of the leading scientists of the world, of which, as the story goes, only one person (James Maxwell) in the world could understand what he had did; the following are few example quotes:

“Only one man lived who could understand Gibbs' papers. That was Maxwell, and now he is dead.”
— Connecticut Academy member (1879), circa Nov, said in meeting

“It was a number of years before its value was generally known; this delay was due largely to the fact that its mathematical form and rigorous deductive processes make it difficulty reading for anyone, and especially so for students of experimental chemistry whom it concerns most.”
Henry Bumstead (1903), “Josiah Willard Gibbs”, American Journal of Science

It would not be until the arrival of Gilbert Lewis (1923), some 47-years later that Gibbs methods would be distilled and deciphered down into a usable form that typical physical chemists, lacking in the necessary mathematical background, could understand. It might well be said, moreover, that the world still has not yet caught up to Willard Gibbs, his work being like a giant wave that people are still riding, barely cling on to, many falling off.

Some of this "catch up effect" phenomenon might have something to do with the fact that the so-called "active mind", as Henry Adams (1907), in the third person, described himself, differs in some way from the so-called "walking encyclopedia" mentality—as Daniel Dennett (2001) described the typical valedictorian—of the typical intelligencia (or elite intelligence) of the world, the result of which being that he active mind may spend more time focusing on adjustment and correction of belief system to be in alignment with the the findings of modern knowledge, whereas the walking encyclopedia type mentality may spend more time focusing on retention of knowledge, rather than on questioning of knowledge:

Walking encyclopedia (labeled)Active Mind

The result of which being that the walker, with their fixed belief system, will have a certain slow going crowd-like reactive "inertia" to sensory input, yielding a certain common or average trajectory, whereas the runner, focused on adjustment to belief system, will have a more accelerated momentum, often times with a trajectory not in alignment with the typical intelligentsia.

The following 1945 statement by American physical historian Morris Zucker, indicating that it took the world 15-years to catch up to work of German history philosopher Oswald Spengler (IQ=), particularly the ideas found in his two-volume 1918/1922 The Decline of the West, and that it took 50-years to catch up to the work of Karl Marx (IQ=), particularly his 1867 three volume Capital: a Critique of Political Economy,

“Over thirty-seven years ago, Seligman first published his Economic Interpretation of History. It has gone through several printings, editions and translations. In itself that work is a living example of the peculiar myopia which afflicts the intellectual world. Sometimes it takes ten or fifteen years for that world to catch up with a Spengler. Kyserling was more transparent. Seligman himself in 1902 commented upon the fact that fifty years after Marxism had made its first appearance and had stirred to the depths economic, social and philosophical thought among European scholars, here in America Marx was scarcely known outside of a few obscure immigrants socialists.”

would seem to indicate that an "IQ" vs "time to catch up" correlation table could be constructed via crude extrapolation of Zucker's two datum point (15-years Spengler; 50-years Marx) if reliable IQ estimates can be obtained.

American two cultures genius Henry Adams, who was some 134-years ahead of his time in thinking, e.g. with with his view that: “social chemistry, the mutual attraction of equivalent human molecules, is a science yet to be created” (human chemistry was established as a science in 2007)—himself having to self-educate on his own beyond his Harvard education, which he considered to be a completed waste, that by 1907 he concluded that the highly “active mind” tends to be surrounded by less active minds moving with a type of “intellectual inertia”, inertia defined as the resistance of any physical object to any change in its motion (including a change in direction):

“The object of education should be the teaching [of] how to react with vigor and economy. No doubt the world at large will always lag so far behind the active mind as to make a soft cushion of inertia to drop upon; but education should try to lessen the obstacles, diminish the friction, invigorate the energy, and should train minds to react, not at haphazard, but by choice, on the lines of force that attract their world.”
Henry Adams (1907), The Education of Henry Adams

The following are equivalent mental inertia quotes:

“When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”
— Jonathan Swift (c.1730), a Terrence Tao (IQ=180±) favorite quote [2]

“It is difficult to overestimate the value of Goethe’s work to humanity. The bequest which he left to the world in his writings, and in the whole intellectual result of his life, is not as yet appreciated at its full worth; because, intellectually, the world has not yet caught up to him. His influence today asserts itself in a hundred minute ways—even where no one suspects it. The century has received the stamp and impress of his mighty personality. The intellectual currents of the age, swelled and amplified by later tributaries, flow today in the directions which Goethe indicated.”
Hjalmar Boyesen (1885), The Life of Goethe

“I must say, I started watching your videos over a year ago, and have re-watched many. And they still fascinate me. I’m only 17 and I’m seriously considering doing a degree in chemistry after watching your videos. The only downside is not many people I know can have a conversation about the things you’re talking about. You were right your videos are decades if not a century in front of its time.”
Benjamin Cresdee (2011), comment on Human Chemistry 101 YouTube channel

“Sadly logic barely has any significance amongst a swarm of imbeciles. Some people are doomed to feel like an alien.”
— Torandrius (2011), commentary on Libb Thims' HumanChemistry101 YouTube channel (Ѻ)

In other words, active mind genius often suffers from what is called the "catch up effect", namely, a multi-century delay in respect to the ability of culture to digest what a " lightening bolt genius" (person, date) or "hammered genius" (William James, 1880) produces. While some of this “mental inertia” issue, that active geniuses have to face, can be attributed to the so-called Semmelweis reflex—the reflex-like tendency to reject new evidence or new knowledge because it contradicts established norms, beliefs, or paradigms—other aspects of it would seem to have to do something with the time it takes to rewire the cultural brain to the new truths perceived by the active mind, who may well be accelerated in thinking by some 1,000 books (e.g. Thomas Young) to 5,000 books (e.g. Goethe) in reading and digestion level, whereas for the cultural brain it may be delayed by multiple generations in respect to the same level of learning about nature and the universe. American physicist Percy Bridgman, in 1919, summarized this intellectual adjustment delay issue as follows:

“The first business of a man of science is to proclaim the truth as he finds it; and let the world adjust itself as best it can to the new knowledge.”

This "world adjustment", for some truth seekers, e.g. Benedict Spinoza, will only accrue posthumously.

See also
● Semmelweis effect (Ѻ)

1. (a) Zucker, Morris. (1945). The Philosophy of American History: The Historical Field Theory (pg. 300). Arnold-Howard Publishing Co.
(b) Seligman, Edwin. (1902). Economic Interpretation of History (pg. 25). Columbia University Press.
2. Terrence Tao (favorite quotes) –

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