Skeletal dysplasias have been recognised since recorded history began. The advent of radiography at the beginning of the 20th century and the subsequent introduction of departments of radiology have had tremendous impact and allowed conditions to be identified by their specific radiographic phenotypes. This has been enhanced by the addition of cross-sectional modalities (ultrasound, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging), which have allowed for prenatal recognition and diagnosis of skeletal dysplasias, and by the recent explosion in identified genes. There are more than 400 recognised skeletal dysplasias, many of which (due to their rarity) the practising clinician (radiologist, paediatrician, geneticist) may never come across. This article provides a historical overview of aids to the radiologic diagnosis of skeletal dysplasias.