Gabriela González, David H. Reitze, and Peter R. Saulson will receive the 2017 NAS Award for Scientific Discovery.

Saulson served as the first elected spokesperson for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) Scientific Collaboration (LSC), filling a role first established by physics pioneer and LIGO co-founder Rainer “Rai” Weiss. Reitze and González succeeded him in this effort, which involves the work of 90 institutions and more than 1,000 researchers around the globe. Since its establishment in 1997, the LSC spokesperson has led the organization that established and carried out the scientific program of LIGO.
The efforts of their combined 19 years of leadership paid off, when the LSC announced that it had observed the gravitational waves from two colliding black holes, a collision that caused ripples in spacetime that could be measured on Earth. The observation, hailed as one of the most important scientific discoveries of 2015, proved the existence and properties of gravitational waves first predicted by Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity a century earlier and capped a 60-year experimental quest involving thousands of researchers from around the world. More importantly, the detection of gravitational waves passing through Earth on September 14, 2015, and then again on December 26, 2015, started a new field of gravitational wave astronomy.