Freeman Dyson expresses the opinion in his 1972 essay titled "Missed Opportunities" that Maxwell's equations could have played a much bigger role, one that is comparable to classical mechanics, in advancing mathematics (and then in turn, advancing physics).
He says mathematicians in the late 19th century failed to grasp the opportunity, and that
"If they had taken Maxwell's equations to heart as Euler took Newton's, they would have discovered, among other things, Einstein's theory of special relativity, the theory of topological groups and their linear representations, and probably large pieces of the theory of hyperbolic differential equations and functional analysis.
A great part of twentieth century physics and mathematics could have been created in the nineteenth century, simply by exploring to the end the mathematical concepts to which Maxwell's equations naturally lead." $\quad$(emphasis mine)
Dyson spends quite some paragraphs addressing this line of thought in "Missed Opportunities" (which I totally enjoyed). More discussions can be seen in another article of his titled "Why is Maxwell's Theory So Hard To Understand" where he acknowledges that historically, even among the physicists, "It was regarded as an obscure speculation without much experimental evidence to support it... (quoting Pupin) how few were the physicists who had caught the meaning of the theory, even twenty years after..."
Here's My question:
Where do researchers stand on this? Have any authors remarked somewhere that Dyson's proposal seems more of a wishful thinking (if not naive) than a plausible suggestion of an alternative history?
(Researchers/authors include: historians, mathematicians, physicists, as well as journalists, pop science writers, social commentators, etc)
Dyson's "Missed Opportunities" is a non-technical essay that is often cited by mathematicians and physicists (it seems). I'm not sure how to dig through the list to find useful information for my inquiry.
This question requires a certain level of expertise in both history and math/phys. Currently within hsm StackExchange I can find only one post that is remotely related.
I'm not sure if will be a good idea to phrase this question sufficiently differently to cross post on physics StackExchange or MathOverflow, asking about the plausibility of Dyson's idea more in terms of the pure logic of math and physics.
To put some comments in context, they involve the original title "Did math lag by 40 years due to under appreciation of Maxwell's Equations?", which was problematic thus replaced.