07172021 Kittredge Noses

The complex history of


will surely blow you away!

By David Kittredge

In the late-1800s the pseudoscience of nasology was developed, which claimed a link between the shape of a human’s nose and their personal character. It was also claimed that as you become more educated the shape of your nose would change — for the better, hopefully. I think that meant your nose would grow longer, in a Pinocchio fashion, so that you would no longer have a snub nose — then considered to be the most derogatory shape.

As it happens, the human nose and ears do lengthen with age as the cartilage in the appendages weakens and gravity takes over. Interestingly, the first doctor to perform rhinoplasty (snozz surgery) — John Roe in 1887 — reshaped a person’s snub nose to make it larger. In a medical journal, Roe described the nose job and cited Warwick’s classifications of nose shapes. I find it interesting that most rhinoplasty operations these days are geared to create a snub- or pug-shaped nose.

In his 1848 book, “Nasology,” Eden Warwick, which is allegedly the pseudonym of George Jabet, categorized nose shapes into six different modes. These following quotes are from Warwick’s book:

— At the top of the list was the Roman nose, which was considered to be the superlative shape as an indicator of “great decision, considerable energy, firmness, absence of refinement and disregard for the bienséance of life.” Bienséance means the quality of being decent or a decency of overall character.

— No. 2 was the Greek nose, which indicates a “refinement of character, a love for the Fine Arts, and Belles Letters, astuteness, craft, and a preference for direct action.” Belle Letters translated means fine literature to include poetry or fiction that is entertaining rather than being purely informative.

— The third category was the wide-nostriled nose, which indicates “a cogitative mind, having strong powers of thought, and given to serious thought and meditation.” So far, these descriptions sound somewhat like a carnival act fortune teller stroking the customer’s ego with flatteries in hopes of a bigger tip, no not a nose tip, a monetary tip.

— The fourth category is the Jewish or hawk nose which signified a prowess in business or in worldly matters in general and a deep insight into character. You did not necessarily have to be Jewish to be considered to be adept in business affairs, you merely needed a hawk-shaped nose to be astute in this area.

— Last and certainly least — size and character wise — are the snub nose and celestial nose categories. These last two nose shapes were combined “to indicate a poverty of character, natural weakness, disagreeable dispositions, with petty insolence.” A petty nose equaled petty character, apparently. The celestial nose was slightly longer than the snub nose which meant the wearer had the slightly more redeeming quality of “a fox-like common sense” to go with a fox-like, nose. The word celestial as its used in this context is baffling in that it usually refers to something that is good, supremely so.

All of Warwick’s proboscis perspectives were balderdash and hokum, in a failed attempt at defining human character and have no scientific value. Folks back then had no idea of the complexities of the human mind or the fact that the human brain has the qualities of a complex quantum computer. We still to this day are trying to fathom the human brain as we try to match its capabilities through computing algorithms and artificial intelligence. Studying the human mind is a bit like staring into our universe with more and more powerful telescopes in that the farther we can see the more bafflingly intricate and incomprehensible the galactic universe — and our brains — become.

Our nose shapes do not change as were become more learned, but our brains are capable of rewiring themselves as we take in new experiences and build our cache of knowledge. Neuroscientists have just recently discovered that the simple act of smelling a new odor or scent can change the wiring of the brain. These same researchers have concluded that there are undiscovered and unimaginable mechanisms occurring in our brains. It has been over 200 years since Dr. Benjamin Rush, often called “The Father of American Psychiatry,” first published his treatise on the human mind. We are still delving into the human mind, attempting to map and comprehend the unknowns of that vast universe. And to think, it only weighs approximately 3 pounds.

David Kittredge is a regular contributor to The Eagle Times. You can send comments to him via the editor.

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