Studies on the receptive field properties of cat retinal ganglion cells over the past half-century are reviewed within the context of the role played by the receptive field in visual information processing. Emphasis is placed on the work conducted within the past 20 years, but a summary of key contributions from the 1950s to 1970s is provided. We have sought to review aspects of the ganglion cell receptive field that have not been featured prominently in previous review articles. Our review of the receptive field properties of X- and Y-cells focuses on quantitative studies and includes consideration of the function of the receptive field in visual signal processing. We discuss the non-classical as well as the classical receptive field. Attention is also given to the receptive field properties of the less well-studied cat ganglion cells-the W-cells-and the effect of pathology on cat ganglion cell properties. Although work from our laboratories is highlighted, we hope that we have given a reasonably balanced view of the current state of the field.