How does the vertebrate embryo make a nervous system? This complex question has been at the center of developmental biology for many years. The earliest step in this process - the induction of neural tissue - is intimately linked to patterning of the entire early embryo, and the molecular and embryological of basis these processes are beginning to emerge. Here, we analyze classic and cutting-edge findings on neural induction in the mouse. We find that data from genetics, tissue explants, tissue grafting, and molecular marker expression support a coherent framework for mammalian neural induction. In this model, the gastrula organizer of the mouse embryo inhibits BMP signaling to allow neural tissue to form as a default fate-in the absence of instructive signals. The first neural tissue induced is anterior and subsequent neural tissue is posteriorized to form the midbrain, hindbrain, and spinal cord. The anterior visceral endoderm protects the pre-specified anterior neural fate from similar posteriorization, allowing formation of forebrain. This model is very similar to the default model of neural induction in the frog, thus bridging the evolutionary gap between amphibians and mammals.