A method to estimate three-dimensional (3-D) conduction velocity vector fields in cardiac tissue is presented. The speed and direction of propagation are found from polynomial 'surfaces' fitted to space-time (x, y, z, t) coordinates of cardiac activity. The technique is applied to sinus rhythm and paced rhythm mapped with plunge needles at 396-466 sites in the canine myocardium. The method was validated on simulated 3-D plane and spherical waves. For simulated data, conduction velocities were estimated with an accuracy of 1%-2%. In experimental data, estimates of conduction speeds during paced rhythm were slower than those found during normal sinus rhythm. Vector directions were also found to differ between different types of beats. The technique was able to distinguish between premature ventricular contractions and sinus beats and between sinus and paced beats. The proposed approach to computing velocity vector fields provides an automated, physiological, and quantitative description of local electrical activity in 3-D tissue. This method may provide insight into abnormal conduction associated with fatal ventricular arrhythmias.