In October, LIGO’s discovery of gravitational waves from two colliding black holes won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics. But three decades ago, it was a controversial project (even among the scientific community) in search of funding.

Walter Massey, chancellor of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and senior adviser to the President of the University of Chicago, was director of the National Science Foundation in 1991; he worked to convince the foundation’s science board to endorse the project, and then to convince Congress to fund it.