V0001016 Joseph Constantine Carpue. Stipple engraving. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Joseph Constantine Carpue. Stipple engraving. Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


Those were the words, spoken in deep awe, by surgeon Joseph Carpue when viewing the results of his first nose reconstruction, performed on this day in 1814. Plastic surgery was born.

Warning, heavy ick factor lies ahead.

His surgery is thought to be the first plastic surgery in the west but it was based on a procedure for nose reconstruction in India published in a book twenty years before. Nose reconstructions had been performed in India since 1500 BC. Carpue published an account of his procedures in a book snappily entitled An Account of Two Successful Operations for Restoring a Lost Nose from the Integument of the Forehead.

Why nose reconstruction? Accidents could happen. The sixteenth-century astronomer Tycho Brahe lost part of his nose in a duel and wore a brass facsimile and he also had gold and silver models for special occasions. But generally, people lost their noses through syphilis (well, I did warn you…) , or to be more specific, from the mercury that was the only treatment for the disease at this time. So you might have to wear something like this number from the mid-nineteenth century:

Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

This is a silver nose painted to match the owner’s skin color. Astonishingly, the owner of this fake nose remarried and sold the device back to her physician for three pounds, claiming her new husband preferred her without it. Hmm. True love.

And apparently there were a lot of people around without noses (and with syphilis), so much so that later in the century No Nose Clubs were formed.

The Star reported in a February 1874 article entitled “The Origins of the No Nose Club”:

Miss Sanborn tells us that an eccentric gentleman, having taken a fancy to seeing a large party of noseless persons, invited every one thus afflicted, whom he met in the streets, to dine on a certain day at a tavern, where he formed them into a brotherhood … This club met every month for a whole joyous year, when its founder died, and the flat-faced community were unhappily dissolved.

I think the only question I can have after this, is what is the strangest club you have ever belonged to and what were its activities?