The name 'interleukin' and the designation of interleukin 1 (IL-1) derived from the Second International Lymphokine Workshop held in Switzerland in 1979. Since then interest in the original interleukin (IL-1) has increased exponentially as measured by the numbers of publications and meetings. The main reasons for this can be seen in the accompanying centrefold. The perception of IL-1 as a biological mediator in every organ system has attracted scientists from widely different backgrounds into this area and a steady succession of important and often surprising insights into IL-1 biology has ensured that interest has been sustained at a high level. This overview of the biology of IL-1 on the tenth anniversary of its turbulent life has been compiled by Franco di Giovine and Gordon Duff. It is of necessity selective and biased towards human IL-1 and begins with some general points (mainly cautionary) as a backdrop to the centrefold.