The history of fetal surgery features an absolute dependency upon the possibility of diagnosis before birth. Powerful new imaging methods, the techniques of sampling amniotic fluid and fetal tissue, and modern molecular genetics for the prenatal diagnosis of various congenital diseases have removed the veil of secrecy from the fetus. Even though most prenatally detected congenital malformations can be managed after maternal transport, a few simple anatomic defects require fetal surgery, albeit with predictably poor results. The understanding of intrauterine physiology and pathophysiology in several congenital malformations has been worked out in animal model study, and the natural history of congenital defects revealed by prenatal observations on human fetuses. Selection criteria for intrauterine intervention have been developed. Over the last two decades, surgical techniques for open and endoscopic fetal surgery have been defined and anesthesia and tocolysis for fetal surgery improved. As we enter the 21st century, this field of surgery will surely expand.