Endemic cretinism was noted in alpine Europe as early as the 13th century. However, it was only in 1848 that a commission, sponsored by the King of Sardinia, first formally demonstrated its link to goiter. An important landmark was the publication of a report in 1871 describing several cases of nongoitrous hypothyroidism that were clearly distinguished from the endemic form of the disease, for which the author suggested the designation of "sporadic cretinism." Classification of the hypothyroid status was for a long time solely based on clinical observation. In the second half of the 20th century, the use of radionuclides (iodine radioisotope and technetium pertechnetate) allowed a more precise diagnosis and taxonomy into thyroid dysgenesis and dyshormonogenesis. This brief review summarizes the progress that has been achieved during the last 40 years in diagnosing the multiple variants of congenital hypothyroidism (CH). It becomes evident that while accurate diagnosis for CH is readily available, its exact etiology requires a precise molecular investigation as different genes are implicated in the differentiation, migration and growth of the thyroid gland.