Back in 1981, Alan H. Guth, then a struggling physics postdoc at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, gave a series of seminars in which he introduced “inflation” into the lexicon of cosmology. The term refers to a brief burst of hyperaccelerated expansion that, he argued, may have occurred during the first instants after the big bang. One of these seminars took place at Harvard University, where I myself was a postdoc. I was captivated by the idea, and I have been thinking about it almost every day since. Many of my colleagues working in astrophysics, gravitational physics and particle physics have been similarly engrossed. To this day the development and testing of the inflationary theory of the universe is one of the most active and successful areas of scientific investigation.