I do acknowledge that the term ‘Sankey diagram’ is not as common as a ‘pie chart’, and that many people don’t know it, even if they have a rough idea of this type of diagram. One might just call a Sankey diagram a ‘mass flow diagrams’ or ‘flow chart’, or ‘energy efficiency chart’. Or a ‘heat loss diagram’, as I have seen it once.
So, then: what is Sankey?
In times where “to google” is synonymously used for “to search”, a visit to Google will give you a first idea. I also recommend a query at Googlism, a site that has some very subtle answers to the above question (I very much like “Sankey is 7 or 7″ and “Sankey is aboard” )
But seriously: Sankey is originally both a name of a locality in England, as well as a family name. Famous Sankey’s include Ira D. Sankey, a gospel singer and composer (1840-1908) and magician Jay Sankey. And of course the lesser known Captain H.R. Sankey, the first to publish an energy efficiency chart, and the reason why we call Sankey diagrams Sankey diagrams. I will try to aggregate some information on this personality, to honor his invention.