Artificial Noses and the Ravages of Syphilis


The finest replacement noses. Photo by SSPL/Getty Images

As we discuss in our podcast episode "Syphilis Through the Ages," the disfiguring disease forced many Europeans to hide their bald spots and sunken, decaying noses. And so powdered wigs became increasingly popular, as did codpieces, merkins and false noses such as these pictured here.

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Image via Cinemax

The nose to the left is carved from ivory, possibly dating back to the 18th century, while the other is plated metal from the 17th or 18th century.

Of course, you didn't have to contract syphilis to lose your nose back then. Tycho Brahe, for instance, wore a false nose in place of one lost in a duel. Today, you can also suffer saddle nose and other nasal disfigurements due to boxing injuries and cocaine abuse.

And, yes, as the good Mr. Hump demonstrates, you can also lose your nose in a deep fryer accident.


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.