Schizophrenia is still one of the most mysterious and costliest mental disorders in terms of human suffering and societal expenditure. Here, we focus on the key developments in biology, epidemiology, and pharmacology of schizophrenia and provide a syndromal framework in which these aspects can be understood together. Symptoms typically emerge in adolescence and early adulthood. The incidence of the disorder varies greatly across places and migrant groups, as do symptoms, course, and treatment response across individuals. Genetic vulnerability is shared in part with bipolar disorder and recent molecular genetic findings also indicate an overlap with developmental disorders such as autism. The diagnosis of schizophrenia is associated with demonstrable alterations in brain structure and changes in dopamine neurotransmission, the latter being directly related to hallucinations and delusions. Pharmacological treatments, which block the dopamine system, are effective for delusions and hallucinations but less so for disabling cognitive and motivational impairments. Specific vocational and psychological interventions, in combination with antipsychotic medication in a context of community-case management, can improve functional outcome but are not widely available. 100 years after being so named, research is beginning to understand the biological mechanisms underlying the symptoms of schizophrenia and the psychosocial factors that moderate their expression. Although current treatments provide control rather than cure, long-term hospitalisation is not required and prognosis is better than traditionally assumed.