Summary Objective To review the historic development of the understanding of articular cartilage from the earliest comment in the fourth century BCE until about 2000. Design The history up to 1900 is told chronologically, divided into (1) recognition of the tissue, (2) structure, and (3) chemistry. The twentieth century is sketched with a timeline of discoveries that at the time were important and a bibliography of journal review articles. Results By 1900 the avascular, aneural state and fibrillar composition have been accepted. The nutrition of articular cartilage remained in dispute. The composition of the binding substance and its relation to collagen remained unknown. Research in the first half of the twentieth century continued to be impeded by lack of technology. The advent of electron microscopy, isotopic tracer technics and enzymology rapidly accelerated the understanding of hyaline cartilage beginning in the 1950s. Conclusions The history of research on hyaline cartilage illustrates the dependence of scientific progress on technologic innovation.