The evidence for the essential role of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) for the generation and maintenance of circadian rhythms in mammals is briefly reviewed. The pharmacology of the phase-response curve is considered and a new circadian measure, the phase-dose-response surface (PDRS), is introduced. The role of neurotransmission, ion fluxes, and non-neuronal cellular elements in the generation and maintenance of circadian rhythmicity is considered. Cell culture of the SCN is proposed as a tool for the functional analysis of clock mechanism. The critical contribution of coupling and synchronization of clock elements is reviewed in the context of the explicit predictions generated by a strong coupling model of the circadian clock. Finally, the nature of the circadian output signal is analyzed from a phylogenetic viewpoint.