Dennis Burkitt's first description of the African tumor that is now known by his name appeared in 1958. In the brief intervening span of 32 years, this lymphoma has provided an extraordinarily valuable paradigm that has afforded insights into topics that encompass the entire discipline of oncology. These include the origins of lymphoid neoplasms at epidemiological, cellular, and molecular levels, and the efficacy of chemotherapy in rapidly progressive, widely disseminated lymphomas. In addition, epidemiological considerations led to the discovery of a new virus, the Epstein-Barr virus, which has proved to be an important human pathogen. This virus probably plays a pathogenetic role in several neoplastic diseases, including the lymphoproliferative syndromes associated with inherited and acquired immunodeficiency. Small, noncleaved cell lymphoma is the latest histological designation of the category of lymphomas that includes Burkitt's lymphoma. This tumor, which is biologically heterogeneous, has become notorious because of its high incidence in individuals infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, which is providing a second, potentially fertile model for the exploration of the pathogenesis of lymphoid neoplasms. Already, enough is known of the pathogenesis of Burkitt's lymphoma to permit the first tentative steps toward the development of novel therapeutic approaches directed toward the molecular genetic abnormalities associated with the neoplasm. In this article, the history, biology, clinical features, and treatment of African Burkitt's lymphoma are reviewed.