The capacity for fluorescence excitation by beams of different wavelengths at separate points along the sample stream, and the capacity for computer analysis of multiparameter data thus obtained, are now available in flow cytometer/sorter systems from commercial producers. It is now readily apparent to most experienced users of flow cytometers that such multiparameter analysis offers the most convenient solution to the problem of characterizing subpopulations of cells within a mixed population. The use of multiple beams facilitates resolution of fluorescence signals from several probes within or upon a single cell and widens the range of analytical alternatives available to experimenters. This critical review discusses the history of the instrumentation, the parameters now measurable and the probes used for their measurement, and the methods for data analysis. Required sensitivity and precision are discussed, leading to the conclusion that many of the advantages of multistation, multiparameter flow cytometry can be made available in less complex and less costly instruments using less powerful sources and less elaborate computer hardware than are presently incorporated in commercial apparatus.