Skiagraphy

Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 6 Feb 2024

Skiagraphy (rarely sciagraphy) is an archaic term for taking a radiograph and this usage (see below) appears to have first been proposed by Sydney Rowland in 1896 1. Skiagrapher was the term used for a radiographer until the end of the First World War. In the early days, a skiagram, (or skiagraph), was the term used for a radiograph.

Although roentgenogram or radiograph quickly became accepted terms, the best term to use for an x-ray film was controversial for many years, as seen by a paper from the British Medical Journal in 1936 2. Interestingly outside the UK, the term skiagram has persisted in certain countries, for example India, as an article from 2023 can attest 3,4.

Example of usage:

History and etymology

Skiagraphy literally means "shadow writing" and is derived, via French and Latin, from the Ancient Greek skia (σκια) meaning shadow, and grapho (γραφω) meaning writing. The word seemed to practitioners to be particularly apt in the early days of the new specialty in view of the blurriness of the images 5

However the word predates the discovery of x-rays. In its original usage, which is still (rarely) used today it refers to the accurate rendering of shadows in art or science. At one time it also had a technical application in architecture, although this usage is now obsolete. 

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