Once in a great while, a few times in history, a human mind produces an observation so acute and unexpected that people can't quite decide which is the more amazing—the fact or the thinking of it. Principia was one of those moments. It made Newton instantly famous.
For the rest of his life he would be draped with plaudits and honors, becoming, among much else, the first person in Britain knighted for scientific achievement. Even the great German mathematician Gottfried von Leibniz, with whom Newton had a long, bitter fight over priority for the invention of the calculus, thought his contributions to mathematics equal to all the accumulated work that had preceded him. "Nearer the gods no mortal may approach," wrote Halley in a sentiment that was endlessly echoed by his contemporaries and by many others since.
Although the Principia has been called "one of the most inaccessible books ever written" (Newton intentionally made it difficult so that he wouldn't be pestered by mathematical "smatterers," as he called them), it was a beacon to those who could follow it. It not only explained mathematically the orbits of heavenly bodies, but also identified the attractive force that got them moving in the first place—gravity. Suddenly every motion in the universe made sense.