After a long gap following the classic work of Taylor, there have recently been several studies dealing with hydrodynamic synchronization. It is now apparent that synchronization driven by hydrodynamic interactions is not only possible, but relevant to the efficiency of pumping by arrays of cilia and to bacterial swimming. Recent work has included experiments demonstrating synchronization, both in model systems and between bacterial flagella. The effect has been demonstrated in model swimmers and pumps, and large scale simulations have been used to investigate synchronization of cilia and of sperm cells. In this review article, we summarize the various experimental and theoretical studies of hydrodynamic synchronization, and put them in a framework which draws parallels between the different systems and suggests useful directions for further research. © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2011.