Amyloids are filamentous protein deposits ranging in size from nanometres to microns and composed of aggregated peptide beta-sheets formed from parallel or anti-parallel alignments of peptide beta-strands. Amyloid-forming proteins have attracted a great deal of recent attention because of their association with over 30 diseases, notably neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's, Huntington's, Parkinson's, Creutzfeldt-Jacob and prion disorders, but also systemic diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) and type II diabetes. These diseases are all thought to involve important conformational changes in proteins, sometimes termed misfolding, that usually produce beta-sheet structures with a strong tendency to aggregate into water-insoluble fibrous polymers. Reasons for such conformational changes in vivo are still unclear. Intermediate aggregated state(s), rather than precipitated insoluble polymeric aggregates, have recently been implicated in cellular toxicity and may be the source of aberrant pathology in amyloid diseases. Numerous in vitro studies of short and medium length peptides that form amyloids have provided some clues to amyloid formation, with an alpha-helix to beta-sheet folding transition sometimes implicated as an intermediary step leading to amyloid formation. More recently, quite a few non-pathological amyloidogenic proteins have also been identified and physiological properties have been ascribed, challenging previous implications that amyloids were always disease causing. This article summarises a great deal of current knowledge on the occurrence, structure, folding pathways, chemistry and biology associated with amyloidogenic peptides and proteins and highlights some key factors that have been found to influence amyloidogenesis.