The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: We received this note via a scholarly e-mail discussion list, and immediately offered to aid Dr. Landry in his research. The text is reproduced here with Dr. Landry's blessing.]
(Image credit: Flickr user Jeff and Maggie G)
Currently I am in the middle stages of researching a project I'm calling Nostril Noster: Inside the Modern Nose. While scholars-Sander Gilman most significantly-have unraveled a complex history of medical formation of the outside of the nose (rhinoplasty etc.), the inside is terra incognita and for good reason, since the nostril plays such an ambiguous role in the history of the modern body. It is both an entry way and a barrier, an invitation for passage and a delicate mechanism for excluding entry. Because of this double nature, however, the nostril has attracted attention from fetishists, novelists, painters, as well as scientists and doctors.
We can date the beginning of the "medicalization" of the nostril rather precisely. While nasal prosthesis was not uncommon in earlier periods, Thomas Buchanan's 1823 invention of a working nasal catheter (key for drainage in cases of syphilis and extreme sinus infection) was, to my knowledge, the first successful medical intervention into the interior of the nose. Catheterization became common medical practice in physician's offices and sanitoria alike, and the nostril became a symbol of repellency in the human form. In the twentieth century, however, the nostril made a comeback. In particular, with Joseph Heitger's discovery of the hygienic function of the interior hairs, it became an emblem of artistic modernism, a site for renewed medical investigation, and, especially, an object for technological innovation.