The last one hundred years have witnessed a dramatic increase in the power and reach of total synthesis. The pantheon of accomplishments in the field includes the total synthesis of molecules of unimaginable beauty and diversity such as the four discussed in this article: endiandric acids (1982), calicheamicin gamma(1)(I) (1992), Taxol (1994), and brevetoxin B (1995). Chosen from the collection of the molecules synthesized in the author's laboratories, these structures are but a small fraction of the myriad constructed in laboratories around the world over the last century. Their stories, and the background on which they were based, should serve to trace the evolution of the art of chemical synthesis to its present sharp condition, an emergence that occurred as a result of new theories and mechanistic insights, new reactions, new reagents and catalysts, and new synthetic technologies and strategies. Indeed, the advent of chemical synthesis as a whole must be considered as one of the most influential developments of the twentieth century in terms of its impact on society.