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Image of the Week: a ‘Movember’ special

13 Nov, 2015
A montage of photographs of Henry Wellcome and one of Silas Burroughs

Henry Wellcome’s facial hair changed throughout his life

This week’s image of the week is a ‘Movember’ special, celebrating Henry Wellcome’s moustache through the ages.*

From a questionable goatee in the 1880s to a more restrained turn of the century ‘tache, Henry Wellcome’s portraits are a showcase for the changing face of Victorian Britain. He sported a moustache throughout his life, as did his business partner Silas Burroughs. But what does the history of facial hair have to do with health?

Well, quite a lot really. Dr Alun Withey, a Wellcome Research Fellow at the Centre for Medical History, University of Exeter, is embarking on a major study titled ‘Do Beards Matter?’ exploring the connections between facial hair, health and hygiene in Britain from c.1700-1918. He argues that the decisions we make about facial hair, how to grow it, shape it or shave it, can shed light on attitudes to male appearance, gender, identity and the body, and how they have changed through time.

If you’d like to know more, visit the Wellcome Library blog where this month Alun is assuming the title of ‘Pogonologist in Chief’ (pogonology is the study of beards) to curate a series of blog posts about the history of facial hair.

And this month more than ever, facial hair has a lot to say about health, as people around the world mark ‘Movember’ by growing a moustache to raise awareness and funds to improve men’s health. I think Henry would have approved.

*Can you spot the odd one out? Send us your guesses to @wellcometrust or facebook.com/wellcometrust.

You can read more about Alun Withey’s month of pogonology on the Wellcome Library blog or visit his blog to find out about his research. For more information about ‘Movember’ and how to get involved visit the Movember Foundation’s website.

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