Most people assume that the history of rhinoplasties (nose jobs) began in the middle of the last century among Hollywood starlets wanting to improve the appearance of their facial features to get more work. While this was certainly true of rhinoplasties starting around the 1930s, the truth is that the procedure has a much longer history, dating back thousands of years. This history is quite fascinating, both in terms of how the procedure has evolved over the centuries, as well as how the reasons for undergoing a rhinoplasty procedure have changed.
Early History of Rhinoplasty
It is important to note that early rhinoplasties were performed to replace a nose lost to illness or injury, rather than to improve aesthetic appearances. The first records of rhinoplasty go back to 3,000 BCE in Egypt. In 500 BCE, the Hindu Ayurvedic surgeon Susrata invented a rhinoplasty technique in which a flap of skin from the forehead (called a pedicle) was used to form a new nose. This particular technique was then translated into Arabic around 700 BCE.
The 16th to 18th Centuries
In the late 16th century, the Italian surgeon Gaspare Tagliacozzi developed a rhinoplasty technique to reconstruct noses lost due to war injuries. In this procedure, a pedicle of skin from the bicep was attached to the nose, and bandaged with the patient’s arm in the raised position for about 20 days, until the skin had properly attached to the nose. At that point in time, the arm was then cut loose and a second surgery was performed to shape the remaining skin into a new nose.
In the 18th century, rhinoplasties were often performed on patients in the late stages of syphilis, during which the nose loses its structure. It was no coincidence that in 1794, Susrata’s “Indian rhinoplasty” technique was finally translated into English in an article in the British publication Gentlemen’s Magazine.
The 19th Century
By the 19th century, rhinoplasties were being performed for cosmetic, rather than reconstructive purposes. In 1887, Dr. John Orlando Roe performed the first closed rhinoplasty. Two years later, Jacques Joseph, considered by many to be the father of modern rhinoplasty, performed a rhinoplasty on a 28-year-old man who was so embarrassed by the size of his nose that he would not go out in public.
The 20th Century
As a result of veterans who sustained injuries in World War I and World War II, there were a number of advances in cosmetic surgery in general, as well as specifically in rhinoplasty. The use of anesthesia and the ready availability of antibiotics were perhaps two of the most important of these advances. By the 1950s, several Hollywood stars began to undergo rhinoplasty. John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Marilyn Monroe, and Rita Hayworth were among the notable stars whom had their noses reshaped.
Rhinoplasty has a long, interesting history. It spans from relatively primitive procedures to reconstruct noses lost to injury or illness to modern, high tech surgeries to improve the shape of the nose for strictly aesthetic reasons.
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