Exactly 200 years ago, Joseph Constantine Carpue performed the first rhinoplasty operation – or nose job – in Britain.
But plastic surgery had already been around for a while.
In India in the sixth century BC, a surgeon named Sushrata quite literally wrote the book on plastic surgery, the Sushruta-samhita. It remained required reading for budding cosmetic surgeons for centuries on the subcontinent and in the Arab world.
Carpue had read an article in a magazine describing how Indian soldiers were undergoing operations to repair facial disfigurements, and he studied the techniques extensively.
In 1799, he was appointed a surgeon at the Duke of York Hospital in Chelsea. One day, a military officer walked in who had lost his nose due to excessive inhalation of mercury (in those days, the highly toxic substance otherwise known as quicksilver was used to treat a variety of diseases).
On 23 October 1814, Carpue cut a piece of skin from the man’s forehead and fashioned it into a nose, which he then grafted on to the face. For several days, the patient lay immobile with his head swaddled in bandages.
While quite possibly not up to the standards of today’s Harley Street, the operation was declared a resounding success. The man’s body had accepted the new nose as its own.
Carpue repeated the procedure on another patient and wrote them both up in the imaginatively titled An account of two successful operations for restoring a lost nose from the integument of the forehead.
From then on, plastic surgery continued to be developed in Europe and America, down to the present day – making more than a few cosmetic surgeons extremely wealthy along the way.
Also on this day
On this day in 1956, security forces in Hungary attacked protesters who were demanding reforms form the government of Matyas Rakosi. Read more here.