American Journal of Roentgenology

Last revised by Arlene Campos on 10 Jun 2024

The American Journal of Roentgenology, also known as AJR, or informally, the Yellow Journal, is a peer-reviewed monthly journal published by the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS). Its editor in chief is Andrew Rosenkrantz. Its global circulation is close to 25,000 paying subscribers 16

Like many of the more long-lived academic publications, there have been a number of name changes over the years (see below). Some non-North American radiologists think that AJR stands for the American Journal of Radiology; however, it has always been short for the American Journal of Roentgenology, or a close variant of this. There were discussions about officially renaming AJR as the American Journal of Radiology in the mid-1970s but it was decided that the original name had important historical connotations and it was left alone. Indeed there has never been a scientific publication with the title American Journal of Radiology (cf. British Journal of Radiology). An open-access online-only journal called the American Journal of Radiology and Imaging was founded in 2018 and has no relationship with the ARRS or AJR.

For many years it has been informally and affectionately known within the radiology community as the yellow journal due to the color of its cover 13. However, in cross-specialty discussions some caution is needed as other scientific publications share the same colored sobriquet, e.g. The Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons is also known by its readership as the yellow journal 15.

The American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS) was founded in 1900 by a small coterie of physicians convened by Dr Heber Robarts (1852-1922) 5 in St Louis, Missouri 21. Dr Robarts already published The American X-Ray Journal, which was first published in 1897. Despite this in 1902, the new Society started a brand new publication, the Transactions of the American Roentgen Ray Society which in its first issue carried the full text of papers presented at its third annual meeting. This annual journal contained reports from the committees of the ARRS, minutes from official meetings and presented papers from their scientific meetings.

It rapidly became apparent that an annual publication would not suffice for the rapid growth in all the radiological research taking place. Therefore it was replaced by a journal, the American Quarterly of Roentgenology, which first appeared in 1907. Its first editor was Dr Preston Manasseh Hickey (1865-1930) 2. After several years quarterly publication was not frequent enough to adequately meet the needs of the expanding radiological community. Therefore in 1913 it became a monthly publication and was renamed the American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR). 

Dr Hickey resigned in 1916 after a decade at the helm. He was succeeded by Dr James Thomas Case (1882-1960) 3,11, but he was the only editor for two years as in 1918 he was conscripted to the war effort. It later transpired that for much of Dr Case's editorship the work was performed by one of his clinical colleagues, Dr Augustus Crane (1868-1937) 4, who was editor, in all but name, from 1917 to 1918.

In 1916 the American Radium Society was founded. Dr Harry Miles Imboden (1878-1951) 10 was editor from 1918-1923 and in 1922 it was agreed that the American Journal of Roentgenology would also be the official journal for the American Radium Society; therefore it was renamed the American Journal of Roentgenology and Radium Therapy. 

Dr Imboden was succeeded in 1923 by Dr Arthur Carlisle Christie (1879-1956) 9 who served for 7 years. He increased the number of annual volumes from one to two, in a stroke doubling the number of papers published by AJR. He also increased the number of abstracts from other journals including for the first time, abstracts from non-imaging journals, that might nevertheless be of interest to the radiology readership.

Dr Lawrence Reynolds (1889-1961) 6 became editor in 1930 and his 31-year tenure has been the longest to date. There was some controversy during his editorship due to his accepting up to 85% of submitted papers [cf. 35% in 1988]. This created a huge backlog. However, Dr Reynolds also oversaw a huge rise in subscriptions such that the AJR had the highest circulation of any radiology journal in the US at that time.

Dr Reynolds died in office in 1961 and, his colleague, Dr Traian Leucutia (1892-1977) 7 then assumed the editor's chair. During Dr Leucutia's editorship, in the 1960s, nuclear medicine was emerging as an important modality and the journal was renamed The American Journal of Roentgenology, Radium Therapy, and Nuclear Medicine. 

In 1965 the number of published papers had again increased so much that each issue had become unreasonably large, and subsequently there was an increase to three annual volumes. After Dr Leucutia relinquished the editorship in 1975, Dr E (Ernst) Frederick Lang (1916-2014) ref was acting editor for one year only.

In 1976 Dr Melvin Figley (1920-2010) 8 assumed the mantle of the editor. The editorial office was moved to Seattle, after 45 years in Detroit. For the first time the editors were remunerated for their role and associate editors were appointed. The output of papers from the American Radium Society slowed to a trickle by the mid-1970s and therefore the official linkage between it and the AJR was concluded in 1977. The journal changed its name back to the American Journal of Roentgenology in 1976. Some advocated updating the title to the American Journal of Radiology but it was decided to maintain its historical associations by retaining "Roentgenology" in the title. Mandatory peer review was also introduced during Dr Figley's time in charge.

Dr Figley was also key in an agreement between the AJR and the American Society of Neuroradiology (ASNR) leading to the founding of the American Journal of Neuroradiology (AJNR) which first appeared in 1980. 

Dr Robert Norton Berk (1930-2017) assumed the mantle of editor in 1986, holding the position for ten years.  He is remembered for the efficiency of his editorial office: especially his computerization of the editorial office. He is also fondly remembered for creating the Melvin M. Figley Fellowship in Radiology Journalism, which is awarded annually to aspiring academic radiologists. The Fellow spends a month in the editorial office working closely with the editor and his staff and learning about radiology journalism firsthand.

In 1986 the audited circulation was 20,000, but had increased to 30,000 by the time he retired in 1995; this 50% increase in subscribed readership has been put down largely to Dr Berk's tireless editorial efforts 12

Dr Berk launched the first electronic version of AJR in 1995 with Dr Beverly P Wood (fl. 2020), a Californian pediatric radiologist as its first editor 12,18.

At the end of 1995 Dr Berk retired as editor with Dr Lee F Rogers (fl. 2020) replacing him in the editor's chair. Dr Rogers introduced two monthly columns: a medicolegal column authored by Dr Leonard Berlin (fl. 2020) and an Editor's notebook giving the editor the opportunity to expound on a topic of his choosing 13.

In 2004 Dr Robert "Bob" J Stanley (fl. 2020) became the editor 14. Dr Stanley's key contribution in his four years in office was expanding the journal's online presence. He introduced electronic submission and peer-review of articles, with subsequent marked improvement in turn around time for submissions. Web-based submissions resulted in a large increase in international submissions and the journal had to significantly increase its pool of international peer reviewers. Abridged Chinese and Japanese versions of AJR were also published for the first time during his tenure 14.

Towards the end of 2008, Dr Stanley announced his retirement from AJR and subsequently Dr Thomas H Berquist (fl. 2020) became the twelfth editor in January 2009. It was announced in August 2018 that Dr Berquist would stand down as editor in June 2020 19.

On 3 March 2020, his successor was announced as Dr Andrew Rosenkrantz, a uroradiologist, who assumed the role in July 2020 22. Dr Rosenkrantz was previously an assistant editor in genitourinary radiology at AJR 20.

  1. 1907-1916 Preston M Hickey

  2. 1916-1918 James T Case

  3. 1918-1923 Harry M Imboden

  4. 1923-1930 Arthur C Christie

  5. 1930-1961 Lawrence Reynolds

  6. 1961-1975 Traian Leucutia

  7. 1975-1976 E Frederick Lang (acting editor)

  8. 1976-1985 Melvin M Figley

  9. 1986-1995 Robert N Berk

  10. 1995-2003 Lee F Rogers

  11. 2004-2008 Robert J Stanley

  12. 2008-2020 Thomas H Berquist

  13. 2020-         Andrew Rosenkrantz

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