History of Reflexology

The oldest documentation of the use of reflexology is found in Egypt. Early Egyptian artists observed and recorded scenes of daily life, which included the medical practices of the times.

EgyptEd and Ellen Case of Los Angeles toured Egypt in 1979. During their travels, they discovered and brought back an ancient Egyptian papyrus scene depicting medical practitioners treating the hands and feet of their patients in approx. 2,500 BC. The tomb of Ankhmahor (a physician of high esteem) at Saqqara is where the scene depicting the practice of reflexology is to be found.

In Europe, a form of reflexology called Zone Therapy was developed in the late 14thcentury which was used throughout Europe.

Dr. William Fitzgerald (1872 - 1942) is credited with being the father of modern reflexology. He discovered zone therapy as practiced by the "Indians." Several tribes of North American Indians used pressure to the feet as a source of healing. Jenny Wallace, a Cherokee Indian from North Carolina says the clan of her father (Bear Clan) believe feet are important. "Your feet walk upon the earth and through this your spirit is connected to the universe. Our feet are our contact with the Earth and the energies that flow through it."

Dr. Fitzgerald's studies brought about the development and practice of reflexology in the United States. His medical degree came from the University of Vermont in 1895. He practiced in Boston; then in London at a nose and throat hospital; then on to Vienna where he discovered the art of pressure therapy. He returned to the United States to Hartford (St. Francis Hospital, Nose and Throat) and found that pressure in the nose, mouth, throat, tongue, hands, feet, joints, etc., deadened definite areas of sensation and relieved pain. This led to the discovery of Zone Therapy. Dr. Joe Shelby Riley of Washington, DC studied many therapies, including surgery, physiotherapy, chiropractic, zone therapy, osteopathy, naturopathy, electro therapy, colour and light therapy. Dr. Riley used this method in his practice for years.

Eunice Ingham (1879 - 1974) worked with Dr. Riley as his therapist in the early 1930's in Florida. As doctors were not interested in reflexology, she contributed greatly in helping people help themselves with this method. She shared her techniques and knowledge with many. In 1938 her book "Stories the Feet Can Tell" was published and in 1951 she wrote "Stories the Feet Have Told." In the 1960's, she wrote "Stories the Feet Are Telling." She died in 1974 and her nephew Dwight Byers is still carrying on her work.

Mildred Carter was another renowned woman in the world of reflexology. Her book "Helping Yourself with Foot Reflexology" sold 500,000 copies, bringing greater recognition to Reflexology.

The founders of the Ontario College of Reflexology were hosts to the first International Council of Reflexologists (I.C.R.) conference in Toronto, Canada in 1990. Professor Donald Bisson, the Dean of OCR, is dedicated to expanding the education of Reflexology worldwide.