“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is a common adage, but is it true? That’s the research interest of Laval University’s Dominic Thibault. The Quebecois medicine student, and self-proclaimed perfectionist, is using the principles of mathematics to define the ideal Caucasian face and then observing whether they match actual human standards. 

Thibault’s basic premise is this: there are certain universal truths about beauty that have origins in mathematics. It is possible, he says, to use concepts, such as the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio – both found throughout nature – to define the ideal proportions of the human face.

To back up his claims, Thibault published a preprint article entitled Mathematically Ideal Horizontal Proportions of the Face – Establishing the New Universal Standard based on Golden Ratio this November. In it, he lays out a careful and meticulous mathematical methodology to define the perfect proportions for various facial dimensions, including eye width, nose width, mouth length, the position of the lateral eyebrow, and the distance between the center of the pupil. 

In total, Thibault identifies eleven ratio-based equations for ideal facial proportions and uses linear algebra to solve them. He then stitches all the data together to produce examples of faces that reflect his calculations. They are certainly beautiful. 

But why engage in such an endeavor? For Thibault, there are both personal and professional reasons. On a personal level, Thibault is a man of order and structure. His motivation is to reimagine the natural and messy human face as part of the realm of pure and simple mathematics.

“I do not like uncertainties,” Thibault said in a statement. “Therefore, I undertook the task of continuing the work of several renowned mathematicians and visionaries, such as Leonardo da Vinci, and tried to unravel the mystery surrounding human beauty.”

On a professional level, though, Thibault wants to take his ideas with him into the world of cosmetic surgery. Instead of taking the sculptor’s approach, chiseling away artistically at human flesh, the researcher wants to introduce a mathematics-based approach to the profession, using heroes, like Fibonacci, as inspiration. 

Thibault’s endeavor, though, is as much a philosophical exercise as it is a mathematical one. His paper stands out in a scientific community ravaged by relativism and subjectivity. For him, the realm of Platonic forms is something that humanity can and does touch, particularly when encountering beautiful faces. 

Perhaps the most striking result of Thibault’s study is how mathematics and human perceptions of beauty merge. “The results of this study … reveal a direct correlation between the facial proportions considered ideal and the key ratios of the Fibonacci sequence,” he states in his paper’s concluding remarks. In other words, an abstract mathematical concept shows up as a pleasant, objective experience in humans, despite their evolution in messy, wiggly, fuzzy nature. 

To view Thibault’s paper, please visit www.researchgate.net.

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By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.