Liquids exist in a relatively small part of the enormous range of temperatures and pressures existing in the universe. Nevertheless, they are of vital importance for physics and chemistry, for technology, and for life itself. A century of effort since the pioneering work of van der Waals has led to a fairly complete basic understanding of the static and dynamic physicochemical properties of liquids. Advances in statistical mechanics (the fundamental formulations of Gibbs and Boltzmann, integral equations and perturbation theories, computer simulations), in knowledge of intermolecular forces, and in experimental techniques; have all contributed to this. Thirty years ago the very existence of liquids seemed a little mysterious; today one can make fairly precise predictions of the solid-liquid-gas phase diagram and of the microscopic and macroscopic static and dynamic properties of liquids. This paper is a survey, with particular emphasis on equilibrium properties, of the theory which underlies that basic understanding, which is now at least comparable with our understanding of the physics of solids. © 1976 American Physical Society.