The cellular processes of transport, division and, possibly, early development all involve microtubule-based motors. Recent work shows that, unexpectedly, many of these cellular functions are carried out by different types of kinesin and kinesin-related motor proteins. The kinesin proteins are a large and rapidly growing family of microtubule-motor proteins that share a 340-amino-acid motor domain. Phylogenetic analysis of the conserved motor domains groups the kinesin proteins into a number of subfamilies, the members of which exhibit a common molecular organization and related functions. The kinesin proteins that belong to different subfamilies differ in their rates and polarity of movement along microtubules, and probably in the particles/organelles that they transport. The kinesins arose early in eukaryotic evolution and gene duplication has allowed functional specialization to occur, resulting in a surprisingly large number of different classes of these proteins adapted for intracellular transport of vesicles and organelles, and for assembly and force generation in the meiotic and mitotic spindles.