A potted history of professional footcare (podiatry)
There is no evidence
early hominids had
corns and even if they
did refined tools to
shave the skin have
never been found.
Normal skin physiology would necessitate
self-pedicure and nail care.
Bas-relief carvings at the entrance to
Ankmahor's tomb (circa 2400 BCE).
Alexander the Great (356 – 323 BCE)
Medical attention to feet is thought to
have spanned the whole of ancient
Wars until the 4th c BCE were
fought barefoot so foot lesions
would be common
Corn Care in Ancient Egypt
Corns were known in
Ancient Egypt (circa 4000
In the New Kingdom
(1567-1320 BCE) bronze
razors replaced the crude
copper alloy. The coming
of the Iron Age (1000
BCE) probably meant skin
scraping utensils were
made from iron.
The Ancient Greeks
Hippocrates recognized the
treatment for corns required
physical reduction of hard skin
followed by removal of the cause.
He is thought to have refined skin
scrapers for this purpose.
Physical removal combined with
skin cell rehydration dates from
this period and has not
fundamentally changed through
the centuries.Hippocrates (c. 460- c.377BCE)
Celsus was a Greek physician
living in Rome in the first century
BCE . He wrote De Medicina an
extensive medical encyclopedia
drawn from the wisdom of
Celsus referred to corns as clavus
(i.e. carpenter’s nail). Later the
medical term became "clavus
Roman scientist and philosopher, Aulus
Cornelius Celsus (c 25—c. 50 BCE)
Footwashing was a
Common Middle Eastern
Custom extended to house
At the Last Supper Christ
dramatically subverted the
common custom by washing
His disciple's feet as an act of
humility and Brotherhood.
The first known definition of a corn
Paul of Aegina (AD 615 -690)
defined a corn as:
A white circular body like the
head of a nail, forming in all
parts of the body, but more
especially on the soles of the
feet and the toes. It may be
removed in the course of
some time by pairing away
the prominent part of it
constantly with a scalpel or
rubbing it down with pumice.
The same thing can be done
with a callus.
The use of pumice stone to rub away
hard skin was popular among
The Dark Ages (5th-15th Century)
In 1163 a Papal Decree
forbid clergy from
sacrilege of shedding
turned their duties over
to barber surgeons and
Magic obsessed healers
reveled in different means of
Corns were treated with
bazaar combinations ranging
from pastes made from swine
dung or the ash of the willow
bark to soaks of the gastric
juice of a calf's stomach.
Shoes for purpose
In the 11th century French
nobleman Fulk Rechin of Anjou
had long toed shoes crafted to
accommodate his painful bunions
The Bears Paw or Duck Bill
Broad toes shoes were introduced
In the late 15th century to
accommodate syphilitic sores.
The Quack’s Act
The overwhelming presence of sores
from plague and syphilis became too
great a challenge for traditional
medicine and in England it was
decreed anyone could treat superficial
sores by any means.
The Quack’s Act gave licence to sell and
administer herbs, roots, waters, and
almost anything to apply to outward
sores or wounds.
The term quack derives from the
archaic word "quacksalver, literally
meaning "hawker of salve.”
Henry VIII (1457 -1509)
He suffered painful sores on
his feet and wore Duckbill
The word “quack” came to mean "shout,“ and
quacksalvers advetised their services on the
street shouting in a loud voice.
Corn salves were popular among corn cutters
and the mountbacks obliged their
customers by treating them in the street.
“Wives, shall I mend your husband's horns?
I'll grind your knives to please your wives, and
very nicely cut your corns.”
Hindley C. (1884 ) A History of the Cries of
" Welcome , gentlemen !
Ladies that have their
toes unplagued with
corns, will have a bout
with you. Ah ah my
mistresses! which of you
all Will now deny to
dance? She that makes
dainty, she I'll swear hath
corns! Am I come near
Romeo & Juliet Act 1 Sc5
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Town Cries and corn cutters
Prior to the Great Fire of London, it was common place to advertise
personal services such as corn removal through the medium of
street cries. Corn cures became a popular product advertised by town
Great Fire of London (1666)
An undignified occupation
“Corn cutters learn to cut corns by corn
Corns were not considered a medical ailment
by the medical fraternity and physicians
regarded their treatment as undignified.
By the seventeenth century corn cutting had
become an acknowledged means of living albeit
it was not considered a respectable profession.
"The Charlatan " by Jan Victors
By Royal Appointment
Towards the end of the
seventeenth century, corn cutting
Became more respectable
with the numbers of practitioners
increasing in England due to an
influx of Dutchmen after the
accession of King William of
Orange, to the British throne.
Royal recognition brought
respectability. John Hardman became the celebrated
corn cutter to William of Orange.
Celebrated Corn Cutters
Many corn cutters frequented
the popular coffee and
bathhouses, advertising their
skills with grandiose claims of
cure and infallible remedies.
Most professed to be the
world's greatest authority on
feet and foot related
problems and their eccentric
behaviour soon brought them
to the attention of high
Thomas Shadwell (1642-1692)
became a celebrated
The beginning of medicalisation
In France towards the end of
the 18th century medical
established and the first book
on corn cutting appeared in
1781, entitled 'Art de Soigner
les Pieds,’ by a Frenchman,
Nicholas Laurent Lafrost.
Following the French Revolution (1789)
the birth of modern medicine began with ‘La Gaze’.
The Corn Cutter
In 1774 corn operating was
not a recognised trade.
There were no chiropodists
Campbell's, The London
The absence of a formal
apprenticeship meant many
their offspring to take up
the calling and trained
them in house. "I am sure if woman judg'd aright
No quack should view this lovly sight ...“
Bob Funney (1735-1765)
English corn cutter, David Low(e) published
his text on care of the feet by plagiarising
‘L'Art de Soigner les Pieds’, and retitled the
works ‘Chiropodologia.’ (1781)
Common usage determined the title
‘Chiropody,’ which eventually overtook the
terms corn cutter and corn operator .
The 'Ch' is written as an ‘x‘ in Greek and
Pronounced with a silent ‘h’. The ‘X’ when
translated to English becomes a harsh
sounding ‘K,’ pronounced, 'ki’ropodist'.
The corn cutter of the early part of the 17th
century was poor and earned little from his
trade. This may explain why many provided
Other services such tooth pulling.
By the eighteenth century the trade
of corn cutting or corn operators as they
preferred, had become very respectable.
Charging approximately a guinea for
their services practitioners became quite
By the end of the eighteenth century,
street corn cutters began to
disappear and with them went the
fashion for outlandish claims and
Instead the more discerning corn
operator s preferred simple business
cards with the address of their
Clients could expect to find premises
well appointed reflecting the
Standard of the occupier.
Corn Operator – Friend or Foe?
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of
Wellington (1769 –1852)
(1769 – 1821)
The Duke of Wellington despised corn operators and believed anyone with corns
deserved them. Emperor Napoleon’ s closest friend and confident was his corn cutter .
Heyman Lion dedicated his life to
find the cause of corns. In 1791 he
registered as a medical student at
the Medical Faculty of Edinburgh
On completion of the course five
years later he presented himself for
a degree of doctor of medicine.
The Faculty refused because, in
their opinion, he represented a
disreputable craft (corn cutting),
and was unworthy of being a
member of an honourable society
Surgeons Hall Edinburgh
Dr Isachar Zacharie (1827-1900) treat distinguished
public figures gratis, and then utilize their
glowing testimonials to attract clients willing
to pay handsomely for his services.
“Dr. Zacharie has operated on my
feet with great success, and
considerable addition to my
The author of David Copperfield
immortalized his personal corn
cutter Mrs Jane Seymour Hill (a
small person). She was a well-
respected corn cutter in London and
described as one of the greatest
Miss Mowcher is a dwarf hairdresser
who plays a pivotal role in David
According to Kelly's
London Directory in 1800
there was only one
chiropodist registered in
London. By 1840 there
were three; and in 1880
there were forty.
The earliest references to
corn cutter and corn
cutting in the Oxford
Dictionary (1893) indicate
by this time these were
Early chiropodists worked
independently of others.
In London the first
association of practitioners
was formed in 1854 by
Durlacher who recognised
the need for a protected
Similar activities took
place elsewhere and in the
The first society of chiropodists
was established in New York in
1895 with the first school
opening in 1911.
In 1912 the British established a
society at the London Foot
Hospital and a school was added
The first Australian professional
associations appeared circa 1924.
started to appear in 1939 along
with a professional journal.
In the absence of qualification
chiropodists served time to
learn the trade.
In North America, chiropodists
became podiatrists and formed
private podiatry training centres
Registered medical auxiliaries
became registered professions
in early 1960’s (UK)
Podiatry in Australia
First chiropodists began
trading in Australia (circa
The number increased
after the Great War (1918)
then post World War II
Change of name and
closed profession (1967)
National Health Service
(UK) became the biggest
employer of chiropodists
North America developed
mainly private practice
Australia and New Zealand
reflected both systems
The Federation internationale
des podologues (F.I.P.) was
founded in 1947 and included
members from France,
Switzerland and Belgium.
Later in the 60s the
association grew to include
members from Spain, UK,
Italy, Denmark, Germany,
Austria, Sweden, Norway,
Finland and the Netherlands.
Commonwealth of Australia
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