Object detection, as of one the most fundamental and challenging problems in computer vision, has received great attention in recent years. Its development in the past two decades can be regarded as an epitome of computer vision history. If we think of today’s object detection as a technical aesthetics under the power of deep learning, then turning back the clock 20 years we would witness the wisdom of cold weapon era. This paper extensively reviews 400+ papers of object detection in the light of its technical evolution, spanning over a quarter-century’s time (from the 1990s to 2019). A number of topics have been covered in this paper, including the milestone detectors in history, detection datasets, metrics, fundamental building blocks of the detection system, speed up techniques, and the recent state of the art detection methods. This paper also reviews some important detection applications, such as pedestrian detection, face detection, text detection, etc, and makes an in-deep analysis of their challenges as well as technical improvements in recent years. Object Detection in 20 Years: A Survey