We reviewed the literature of how the genome is activated following fertilization in vertebrates. Dave Jukam, with an assist from Ali Shariati and myself, did some heroic work pulling together the literature from frog, fish, mouse and human. Usually the model organisms frog and fish are considered separately from mammals. But, we were able to pull it together in what I think is a useful way. This was by far the most difficult review I have been a part of writing and it took over a year to put it together in a compact readable form. I'm proud of it and hope some ideas, like the use of various nuclear-to-cytoplasmic ratios to control events in early development, inspire future work revealing conserved principles of early development.