This brief review describes the history of Graves’ disease, starting with the original descriptions by Parry, Graves and von Basedow. The true aetiology of the disorder was uncovered in the 1950s and 1960s, based on the search for a novel thyroid stimulator which turned out to be an immunoglobulin G autoantibody. Assays for these thyroid stimulatory antibodies have been continually refined and their epitopes on the thyroid stimulating hormone receptor are increasingly well characterized. We also understand far more about the genetic and environmental susceptibility factors that predispose to disease, and even thyroid-associated ophthalmopathy has now been better defined as primarily a T-cell-mediated disease resulting from cytokine stimulation of orbital fibroblasts. These advances should improve treatment options for Graves’ disease in the foreseeable future.