The study of human growth hormone is a little more than 100 years old. Growth hormone, first identified for its dramatic effect on longitudinal growth, is now known to exert generalized effects on protein, lipid, and carbohydrate metabolism. Additional roles for growth hormone in human physiology are likely to be discovered in the areas of sleep research and reproduction. Furthermore, there is some indication that growth hormone also may be involved in the regulation of immune function, mental well-being, and the aging process. Recombinant DNA technology has provided an abundant and safe, albeit expensive, supply of human growth hormone for human use, but the pharmacological properties of growth hormone are poor. Most growth hormone-deficient individuals exhibit a secretory defect rather than a primary defect in growth hormone production, however, and advances in our understanding of the neuroendocrine regulation of growth hormone secretion have established the basis for the use of drugs to stimulate release of endogenously synthesized growth hormone. This promises to be an important area for future drug development.