Purpose - The purpose of the paper is to serve as a useful reference for anyone embarking on research into intellectual capital (IC). It provides a succinct summary of the seminal works on this research area. Design/methodology/approach - The paper reviews the seminal literature arranges it into a chronology of the evolving research into IC. Findings - The findings show that IC has undergone a number of development stages from definitions, models through to measures and applications of IC to business and management issues. Research limitations/implications - The review is limited to refereed journals and books published before March 2007. Practical implications - IC is an area of interest to numerous parties, including shareholders, institutional investors, scholars, policymakers and managers. This paper serves as a useful reference on the stages of development of IC and the applications to business and management issues. Originality/value - The study of IC has undergone a number of stages, from early conscious awareness efforts, to classification of IC and to the search for appropriate measures of IC. This paper provides a taxonomy on IC research as suggestions about future research directions.