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The Golden Ratio: Aesthetically meritorious or misapplied calculation ?

In this article, we will be delving into more about this infamous ratio and what it really means in different contexts. Is there any truth to this definition of beauty or is there no aesthetic value behind the mathematics? 

Euclid developed the math behind the Golden Ratio, but was not the one that originated the claims of its aesthetic merit. Euclid referred to the ratio as the “extreme and mean ratio.” Not as much of a ring to it with that name.  The term was first referred to as the “divine proportion” by Luca Pacioli in the 15th century. In 1835, Martin Ohm called the ratio “golden.” It was much later, in the 19th century, that Gustav Theodor Fechner is believed to have popularized the ratio’s association with aesthetics. Today, the Golden Ratio is most famously associated with concepts like “beauty” , “symmetry.” It is also touted by many in the Plastic Surgery field as an ideal model to follow. In this article, we will be delving into more about this infamous ratio and what it really means in different contexts. Is there any truth to this definition of beauty or is there no aesthetic value behind the mathematics?

Ancient Greek Architecture with dimensions of the Golden Ratio overlayed. Source:

In a 2016 article, Amber Heard’s face was touted as the “perfect face.” How was this determination made? By use of the Greek Golden Ratio of Beauty Phi and 12 different marker points on her face the conclusion was reached that she was 91.85% “perfect.” The value of the ratio is said to be approximately 1.62. So when comparing any two points the ratio should be around 1.62 in order to meet the requirements of this Golden Ratio. For frame of reference, Kim Kardashian previously scored a 91.39% and Kate Moss scored a 91.06%. On this side of the discussion lies Dr. Stephen Marquardt–plastic surgeon credited with patenting facial grids derived from the Golden Ratio to guide surgery. He also notes that famously beautiful people such as Marilyn Monroe and Angelina Jolie are quite close to matching this ratio.


Yet despite hearing these familiar claims that this ratio is the way we can define beauty, there have been quite a few claims refuting this one. Dr. Keith Devlin, a Stanford University mathematician, has been working to make note of the illegitimacy of such claims. Dr. Delvin has said in the past that, “golden ratio stuff is in the realm of religious belief. People will argue it is true because they believe it, but it’s just not fact.” This brings up another big point about the Golden Ratio- religious implications. A lot of people have linked the idea of this ratio being present in nature and even the human body to a divine origin, but there are not many concrete claims to back up the idea that everything is in this ratio as is claimed. A study from Haas School of Business at Berkley, found that average consumers prefer rectangles in the range of 1.414 and 1.732 (the golden ratio is contained in that), but there is not a clear preference for the 1.62 ratio number.

Others bring up the point that the Golden Ratio can be an arbiter of aesthetically defined beauty in conjunction with other factors. For instance, Dr. Kendra Schid, professor of biostatistics, uses the Golden Ratio along with 29 metrics to determine facial sex appeal. On this scale, most people are around a 4-6 out of 10 with nobody, as of yet, a perfect 10 on the scale.

Do you think the Golden Ratio is an arbiter of visually appealing aesthetics?


Magda Wojtara is Junior at the LSA Honors College at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor on a pre-med track with a major in Neuroscience. In her free time, she write articles, volunteers at a chronic pain outpatient facility with UM Medicine, does research, competes in HOSA, and, of course, enjoys photography and singing. In her spare time she manages her own travel and lifestyle blog: @journeythedestiantion on instagram and

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