Development of the body plan is controlled by large networks of regulatory genes. A gene regulatory network that controls the specification of endoderm and mesoderm in the sea urchin embryo is summarized here. The network was derived from large-scale perturbation analyses, in combination with computational methodologies, genomic data, cis-regulatory analysis, and molecular embryology. The network contains over 40 genes at present, and each node can be directly verified at the DNA sequence level by cis-regulatory analysis. Its architecture reveals specific and general aspects of development, such as how given cells generate their ordained fates in the embryo and why the process moves inexorably forward in developmental time.