Methods and equations for analysing the kinetics of enzyme-catalysed reactions were developed at the beginning of the 20th century in two centres in particular, in Paris by Victor Henri, and in Berlin by Leonor Michaelis and Maud Menten. Henri made a detailed analysis of the work in this area that had preceded him, and arrived at a correct equation for the initial rate of reaction. However, his approach was open to the important objection that he took no account of the hydrogen-ion concentration (a subject largely undeveloped in his time). In addition, although he wrote down an expression for the initial rate of reaction and described the hyperbolic form of its dependence on the substrate concentration he did not appreciate the great advantages that would come from analysis in terms of initial rates rather than time courses. Michaelis and Menten not only placed Henri's analysis on a firm experimental foundation, but also defined the experimental protocol that remains standard today. Here we review this development, and discuss the other scientific contributions of these people. The three parts have different authors, as indicated, and do not necessarily agree on all details, in particular about the relative importance of the contributions of Michaelis and Menten on the one hand and of Henri on the other. Rather than force the review into an unrealistic consensus we have thought it better to leave the disagreements visible. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.