The recent award of a Nobel Prize to Sydney Brenner crowns an astonishingly distinguished scientific career. He must have come very close to winning it several times in the past. A colleague described him as 'a visionary who sees further into the future than anyone'. This is borne out by his decision - made 40 years ago - to study a one-millimetre long worm in detail to define the, biochemical and genetic control of its development and differentiation. The impact of these studies has been so profound, with a significant bearing on human physiology and disease, that over 400 laboratories worldwide have now adopted the worm as a research tool. In this article, a brief outline is given of his work on the worm and of some of the highlights of his brilliant career.