The developmental steps required to build a brain have been recognized as a distinctive sequence since the turn of the twentieth century. As marking tools for experimental embryology emerged, the cellular events of cortical histogenesis have been intensively scrutinized. On this rich backdrop, molecular genetics provides the opportunity to play out the molecular programs that orchestrate these cellular events. Genetic studies of human brain malformation have proven a surprising source for finding the molecules that regulate CNS neuronal migration. These studies also serve to relate the significance of genes first identified in murine species to the more complex human brain. The known genetic repertoire that is special to neuronal migration in brain has rapidly expanded over the past five years, making this an appropriate time to take stock of the emerging picture. We do this from the perspective of human brain malformation syndromes, noting both what is now known of their genetic bases and what remains to be discovered.