Vyshnevetsky was probably born in Vyshnivets. He was of the influential and rich Vyshnevetsky family, and was elected hetman in 1550. He was the first hetman. Under his leadership, the Zaporozhian Sich was constructed on Khortytsya Island.
Vyshnevetsky was crucial in the development of the power of Ukrainian Kozaks. He implemented strict military discipline, and aided in the development of Kozak government and traditions. He is also known for his use of cunning diplomacy and negotiations with his neighbors.
Vyshnevetsky is remembered as one of the greatest Kozaks, and as a father of Ukraine. It should be noted however that he was the grandfather of Yarema Wiśniowiecki, one of the enemies of the Ukrainian Kozak state. He appears on a ten Hryvnia coin in Ukraine.