The large-scale structure of the Universe is dominated by vast voids with galaxies clustered in knots, sheets, and filaments, forming a great 'cosmic web'. In this personal account of the major astronomical developments leading to this discovery, we learn from Laird A. Thompson, a key protagonist, how the first 3D maps of galaxies were created. Using non-mathematical language, he introduces the standard model of cosmology before explaining how and why ideas about cosmic voids evolved, referencing the original maps, reproduced here. His account tells of the competing teams of observers, racing to publish their results, the theorists trying to build or update their models to explain them, and the subsequent large-scale survey efforts that continue to the present day. This is a well-documented account of the birth of a major pillar of modern cosmology, and a useful case study of the trials surrounding how this scientific discovery became accepted.
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