In the 40 years since its inception, the Protein Data Bank (PDB) has amassed over 80,000 experimentally determined structural models of proteins, plus many models of DNA and RNA fragments. The majority of the protein models have contributed, in some way, to an understanding of their particular protein's function, be it through the conformation of its catalytic residues, the details of its interactions with other proteins, substrate molecules, DNA, and so on. However, the totality of the data in the PDB provides a rich source of more generalized knowledge about proteins, their molecular biology, and evolution. Here, we describe how the focus of protein structural analysis has developed over the past 40 years. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Biopolymers 99: 183–188, 2013.