In March 1975 psychologist Elaine Hatfield and her $84,000 study on romantic attraction became the centerpiece of U.S. Senator William Proxmire's inaugural "Golden Fleece Award," designed to skewer government waste. Proxmire complained that scientists would never find the answer to the mystery of love. Even if they did, the senator from Wisconsin insisted, no one else would want to know it. Bags of mocking letters deluged Hatfield's University of Wisconsin office, and Proxmire asked to see her expense records plus the confidential names and addresses of the several thousand students she had interviewed.
Undeterred, the scientist went on to develop a popular instrument to measure the intensity of obsessive romantic love--and never again applied for government funding. The senator issued another 150 awards for squandering taxpayer money over the years, before retiring in 1989 at age 73.
This article was originally published with the title Return of the Fleece.