“A frequently used word, it’s a rare and precious anomaly in the scope of human ability. Throughout our known history, individual geniuses have uncovered solutions and illuminated possibilities for humanity that might otherwise have remained unrealized.” (As was observed by Lily Serna, an Australian Mathematician and interviewer for the podcast, “Decoding Genius”.)
Today (20 November, 2020), the WHO (World Health Organization) was showing the USA as #1 worldwide in having cases confirmed as testing positive for COVID-19 — totaling over 11 Million.
Amidst all the fear and foreboding over this current worldwide pandemic — whilst prolonged bluster and preoccupied bloviating ensues in American politics — it is my privilege to celebrate even-more-rare genius when it is experienced and expressed with true, non-assuming humility.
Humble Genius (credit @jamie__macpherson from Unsplash)
Humility: A trait of an avid genius with an acute mind, a heart aware of others, and a clear spirit.
Two Americans epitomize this noble trait amidst what may seem to be “superhuman”. One of them was Katherine Johnson — among very few NASA-level mathematicians. As was depicted in the movie, “Hidden Figures”, Katherine was a pioneer — not only for African American women (who were physically and socially segregated and disrespected, if not completely ignored, in the 1950’s) — but also a uniquely vital asset to the nation’s space program itself.
Katherine was the sole mathematician who derived the calculations that put John Glenn safely into orbit; and later, for the first manned spaceflight and moon landing with Alan Shepard. While taking seriously the precise need for accuracy that NASA missions required, she honed her own long-held passion for elements of both art and science in the practice of mathematical thinking.
When an awe-struck interviewer asked Katherine about the wonders of her NASA experience, she simply replied, “When you put bright people in a room and they had something to do, they worked on it until they got it done. I believed that I was where I was supposed to be.”
When she was asked about the many accolades received for her work at NASA — including a building named in her honor at the Langley Research Center — humble genius Katherine spoke simply: “It was a nice tribute. I don’t know what all the fuss was about. I was just doing my job.”
This month, Katherine Johnson passed away, after 101 years as a brilliant blessing to Mankind.
The other American I wish to highlight was John Evans, the second territorial governor of Colorado in 1862. David Halaas, of the Colorado Historical Society, has described Evans as “a physically striking man; And his appearance was made all the more remarkable by his penchant for carrying a block of cedar and a knife, always ready to whittle his way through any meeting or street corner chat.”
And my own research reveals a man of many talents, and powerful abilities for achievement: Evan’s involvement in the growth of Colorado encompassed his running of banks, building railroads, investing in business and mining ventures, and founding the University of Denver.
After ordering a survey of Berthoud Pass for a possible railroad route through the mountains, Evans petitioned Congress to commit to build the Union Pacific Railroad through Colorado; lobbied for federal troops to assure its safe passage; and negotiated a treaty with the Utes.
In honor of his services, the Colorado legislature gave Evans’ name to one of the highest peaks on the front range of the Rocky Mountains west of Denver — “Mount Evans”.
Acknowledging these two fellow human beings and their “Superhuman” achievements (in timely detail that fits our current times) makes me acutely aware of how the powerful trait of Humility greatly helps integrate the unique creative genius we each manifest and express here on Earth.
Let Us Acknowledge & Embrace the Especial Facets of Humble Genius Inherent in Each of Us!
Take Good Care, Until We Greet Again …