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Rhinoplasty

Indian method of nose reconstruction, illustrated in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1794.

Indian method of nose reconstruction, illustrated in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1794.

Credits:Wellcome Library, London.

Rhinoplasty, in which the nose is reconstructed, has a long history. It was developed in India by the Hindu surgeon Susrata in about 500 BCE. He used a flap of skin from the forehead, called a pedicle, to form a new nose. The forehead reconstruction method developed by Susrata was translated into Arabic in the 700s CE, and into English in the 1700s. Other methods developed in Italy by Gaspare Tagliacozzi in the 1500s were also used for rhinoplasty.

Disfigurement of the nose was used as a punishment in some parts of the world, or was often a consequence of war wounds. Another common reason for rhinoplasty was syphilis - one of the effects of the disease is the collapse of the nose. The forehead-flap method of the Hindu surgeons was a popular treatment to hide the ravages of this disease.

Rhinoplasty changed from a procedure to construct a nose lost through punishment or accident to one in which the size or shape of the nose is changed. It was first used for cosmetic purposes in 1898, when a surgeon operated on a young man whose nose caused him such embarrassment that he was unable to leave the house. The ‘nose job’, as rhinoplasty is also known, became common among Hollywood actors and actresses from the 1930s. The alarming number of people who have rhinoplasty in order to conform to contemporary ideals has raised concerns that people feel forced to adhere to a constructed notion of beauty in order to bolster their self-esteem.

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Bibliography

J P Bennett, `Aspects of the History of Plastic Surgery Since the 16th Century', Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 76 (February 1983), pp 152- 156

S Gilman, Making the Body Beautiful: A Cultural History of Aesthetic Surgery (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999)

Glossary:

Syphilis

A sexually transmitted infection resulting in the formation of lesions throughout the body.