Sydney D Rowland

Last revised by Dr Daniel J Bell on 18 May 2021

Sydney D Rowland (1872-1917), was the founder and editor of the Archives of Clinical Skiagraphy, the first journal of radiology to be published anywhere in the world.

Sydney Domville Rowland was born in Cornwall on 29 March 1872 1,5. He was the eldest issue of the Reverend William J Rowland and Margaret Domville and had three younger siblings. He had a peripatetic childhood, as his father was posted to various parishes in South-West England and also in India. For his secondary education, he attended Berkhamsted Grammar School, leaving in 1889, with a science scholarship to the University of Cambridge 5.

His undergraduate preclinical studies were at Downing College, University of Cambridge, where he was a Scholar and President of the Natural History Society. In 1895 he transferred to St Bartholomew's Hospital in London for his clinical training, where he was a Shuter Scholar. 

As a medical student Sydney Rowland had worked as a medical journalist under the guidance of his uncle Ernest Hart (1835–1898), the then editor of the BMJ (British Medical Journal) 5.

It was no great surprise then that on 8 February 1896, the BMJ officially  invited Mr. Rowland, as a "Special Commissioner" to contribute a series of weekly articles on the potential medical applications of Roentgen's rays. From 8 February to 5 December 1896, 16 articles were published, covering novel technical advances, emerging clinical radiography experimentation, and demonstrations of the new technology to the lay populace 4,6. In some respects this series of articles actually formed the first 'radiology journal' in all but name. A final 17th article was published on 12 June 1897 5.

As a 24-year old medical student, Rowland founded the Archives of Clinical Skiagraphy 1. The first issue, published in April or early May 1896, comprised 16 pages with a prefacing editorial, an article by Rowland on the basic methodology of taking a radiograph, or skiagram as he coined it, and six photographic plates of radiographs. Paid advertisements for x-ray equipment appeared on the final page 3.

The journal appeared for a further three issues from 1896 to 1897. For its last (fourth) issue, published in May 1897, the clinical part of the name was dropped, becoming the Archives of Skiagraphy 3.

In the first article of the first issue Sydney Rowland set out in an editorial his hopes for the new discipline "The object of this publication is to put on record in permanent form some of the most striking applications of the New Photography to the needs of Medicine and Surgery" 2.

He qualified with the Conjoint Diploma (the medical qualifying exam in the late 19th century) in April 1897, which gave him the post-nominal letters LRCP and LRCS, and allowed him to use the honorific, Doctor 4. Ironically, Dr Rowland did not become a radiologist, but trained and worked as a microbiologist. He commenced work as an Assistant Bacteriologist at the Lister Institute in 1898. 

He was elected to the Council of the Roentgen Society in November 1898.

In 1905 he traveled to India as part of the Plague Commission 4.

At the onset of the First World War he enlisted, joining the Royal Army Medical Corps, and eventually attaining the rank of Major. He was based in France and headed-up a field laboratory. He tragically died on 6 March 1917 from meningitis 1,4.

The Archives of Clinical Skiagraphy was the ultimate forerunner to the BJR (British Journal of Radiology).

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: Archives of Clinical Skiagraphy
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