Accretion and magnetic fields play major roles in several of the many models put forward to explain the properties of T Tauri stars since their discovery by Alfred Joy in the 1940s. Early investigators already recognized in the 1950s that a source of energy external to the star was needed to account for the emission properties of these stars in the optical range.
The opening of new spectral windows from the infrared to the ultraviolet in the 1970s and 1980s showed that the excess emission of T Tauri stars and related objects extends into all wavelength domains, while evidence of outflow and/or infall in their circumstellar medium was accumulating.
Although the disk hypothesis had been put forward by Merle Walker as early as 1972 to explain properties of YY Orionis stars and although Lynden-Bell and Pringle worked out the accretion disk model and applied it specifically to T Tauri stars in 1974, the prevailing model for young stellar objects until the mid-1980s assumed that they experienced extreme solar-type activity. It then took until the late 1980s before the indirect evidence of disks presented by several teams of researchers became so compelling that a paradigm shift occurred, leading to the current consensual picture.
I briefly review the various models proposed for explaining the properties of young stellar objects, from their discovery to the direct observations of circumstellar disks that have so elegantly confirmed the nature of young stars. I will go on to discuss more modern issues concerning their accretion disk properties and conclude with some results obtained in a recent attempt to better understand the evolution of Taurus-Auriga young stellar objects.