Type II focal cortical dysplasia (FCD) is a neuropathological entity characterised by cortical dyslamination with the presence of dysmorphic neurons only (FCDIIA) or the presence of both dysmorphic neurons and balloon cells (FCDIIB). The year 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the recognition of FCD as a cause of drug resistant epilepsy, and it is now the most common reason for epilepsy surgery. The causes of FCD remained unknown until relatively recently. The study of resected human FCD tissue using novel genomic technologies has led to remarkable advances in understanding the genetic basis of FCD. Mechanistic parallels have emerged between these non-neoplastic lesions and neoplastic disorders of cell growth and differentiation, especially through perturbations of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signalling pathway. This narrative review presents the advances through which the aetiology of FCDII has been elucidated in chronological order, from recognition of an association between FCD and the mTOR pathway to the identification of somatic mosaicism within FCD tissue. We discuss the role of a two-hit mechanism, highlight current challenges and future directions in detecting somatic mosaicism in brain and discuss how knowledge of FCD may inform novel precision treatments of these focal epileptogenic malformations of human cortical development.