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Medical Trivia 2

Updated on May 9, 2014

Sculpt and reshape

Plastic surgery, plastic denoting sculpting or reshaping, is that branch of medicine that is concerned with restoration of form and function and it has proved to be a boon to several hundred thousands of people over the year whether in the form of cosmetic or aesthetic surgery or for its much more widely spread uses in reconstructive surgery, burns treatments, microsurgery and many others. Plastic surgery became commonplace in western medicine during the First World War (1914-1918), when great numbers of people needed to be treated for injuries brought about by war and anesthetic techniques had been developed which helped to alleviate the pain otherwise connected with such operations; but plastic surgery dates much further back in time than the early years of the 20th century.

Ancient Egyptian Medical Treatise

Back to the ancient Egyptians.

The oldest known medical treatise that discusses surgery, the Edwin Smith papyrus, dates back to about 3000-2500 B.C. The document describes procedures for rhinoplasty, i.e. reconstructive surgery for the nose; and Hindu surgeons were regularly performing reconstructive surgeries as far back as 800 B.C., early treatises written in Sanskrit dating to between the 2nd and 6th centuries B.C., by Charaka (the Charaka Samitha) and Sushruta (the Sushruta Samitha). The ancient Romans also performed simple reconstructive surgery, such as simple repairs on damaged ears.

Shushruta monument at Haridwar, India.

Father of Medicine

Acharya Charaka, c. 300 B.C., was a principal contributor to the ancient Ayurdeva system of medicine that was developed in India. An early proponent of the concept that prevention is better than cure, his treatise, Charaka Samitha, contains important contributions on physiology, surgery, etiology and embryology. the term, Acharya, is one that is often attached to the names of highly learned folk.

Monument to the Father of Medicine at Haridwar, India.

Rhinoplasty in India

Rhinoplasty was particularly popular in India, where surgeons of the Ayurdeva school regularly performed such operations using alcohol-based anesthetics and steel surgical instruments; patients undergoing surgery were enabled to breathe by means of reeds inserted in the nostrils. Tissue for the reconstruction was taken from the cheeks or forehead. An account of a procedure carried out by an Indian surgeon watched by British surgeons was reported in the Gentleman’s Magazine, a British periodical, in an edition of 1794. Joseph Constantine Carpue (1764 – 1846), a British surgeon who spent 20 years in India studying local plastic surgery methods, performed the first major plastic surgery in the Western World.

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Adultery could leave you noseless.

The popularity of rhinoplasty in India may be related to the fact that the punishment for adultery in previous times was to slice off the adulterer’s nose; not as drastic as the stoning to death provided for by some other ancient codes of law; but pretty drastic nonetheless. So, insofar as one could afford the medical fees, the adulterer could cover up, at least to an extent, his criminality.


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