My previous post ended with a quote by Augustus De Morgan and it was such a good one that I make no apologies for quoting him again, this time from an 1846 biography of Newton, which you can find transcribed online here. In attempting to assess Newton’s contribution to science, and the importance of his Principia, De Morgan writes:
it is difficult to put before the ordinary reader, even if he be a mathematician, a distinct view of the merit of any step in the formation of a system. Unless he be acquainted with the history of preceding efforts, he comes to the consideration of that merit from the wrong direction; for he reads the history from the end. He goes to the mail-coach, back from the railroad instead of forward from the old strings of pack-horses: from a macadamized road lighted with gas to the rough stones and the oil-lamps, instead of beginning with the mud and the link-boys.