Pulmonary hypertension is a complex, multifactorial disease that results in right heart failure and premature death. Since the initial reports of pulmonary hypertension in the late 1800s, the diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension has evolved with respect to its definition, screening tools, and diagnostic techniques. This historical perspective traces the earliest roots of pulmonary hypertension detection and diagnosis through to the current recommendations for classification. We highlight the diagnostic tools used in the past and present, and end with a focus on the future directions of early detection. Early detection of pulmonary hypertension and pulmonary arterial hypertension and the proper determination of etiology are vital for the early therapeutic intervention that can prolong life expectancy and improve quality of life. The search for a non-invasive screening tool for the identification and classification of pulmonary hypertension is ongoing, and we discuss the role of animal models of the disease in this search.