Acid phosphatases (APs) are a family of enzymes that are widespread in nature, and can be found in many animal and plant species. Mystery surrounds the precise functional role of these molecular facilitators, despite much research. Yet, paradoxically, human APs have had considerable impact as tools of clinical investigation and intervention. One particular example is tartrate resistant acid phosphatase, which is detected in the serum in raised amounts accompanying pathological bone resorption. This article seeks to explore the identity and diversity of APs, and to demonstrate the relation between APs, human disease, and clinical diagnosis.