Fifty years have passed since the first total hip arthroplasty of the modern era was performed. At this, the vantage point, it is reasonable to review these five decades, inquiring behind the single dominating observation that, in its current form, this operation is one of the most successful of all surgical procedures for the management of end-stage human disease. What are the generic lessons that can be derived from the experience? Succinctly, five major observations appear valuable. They are “skunk works,” “Pasteur’s motto,” “the totally unexpected,” “research solutions,” and “the role of alternatives.” “Skunk works,” an industrial management term, might be characterized as an innovative endeavor that is offline and off-budget resulting from the relentless pursuit of a vivid dream by creative zealots who eschew defeat. Pasteur’s motto dealt with serendipity, which was crucial to total hip arthroplasty progress. The totally unexpected is represented by an entirely new manmade disease, “periprosthetic osteolysis.” The research solutions are represented by the complex, sophisticated contemporary research that has unraveled periprosthetic osteolysis and suggested modes of correction. Finally, the application of “alternatives” has characterized major progress. Importantly, these, or similar generic observations, may provide insights into important progress in the future.