Saturday, March 13, 2010

Phineas, we hardly knew ya


One of my favorite displays is of the actual head of Phineas Gage. If you recall, he was a railroad worker who unfortunately got in the way of a projectile -- a long, sharp iron bar that inadvertently became a missile as a result of a mistimed explosive charge.

Mr. Gage's head, and the bar that traveled through it back in 1848, and a technical explanation of the event and the aftereffects are on public display at the Countway Library at Harvard Medical School. (Contact the library at (617) 432-2170 for information.)

4 comments:

Chris (The Man Nurse Diaries) said...

I wish I could see that. You left out the part about him surviving the accident! Incredible. Who needs their frontal lobes anyway??

Paul Levy said...

From Facebook:

Dan: I heard an interesting story recently on NPR about Phineas Gage:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122810679

Ashley Wendel said...

Paul - thanks for this! I used to teach Psych 101 at a university here in San Diego, and the story of Phineas Gage was always one of my favorites to teach to my students when we talked about the brain.

Not long ago I came across a recently discovered photograph of Phineas in Smithsonian Magazine - I had never seen one before! He was a handsome young man - and in the photo he sits with what was originally thought to be a whaling harpoon, until it was realized that it was actually the metal spear that had pierced his brain. It is unfortunate that he didn't do well after his injuries and in fact died by the age of 36 from seizures. But truly an incredible story!

You can see the photo here: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Phineas-Gage-Neurosciences-Most-Famous-Patient.html

Paul Levy said...

More from Facebook:

Martha: And there's this article from January's Smithsonian magazine as well, with a photograph of him with the bar.
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Phineas-Gage-Neurosciences-Most-Famous-Patient.html

Judith: For the young -- and young-at-heart -- check out former Harvard Medical School science writer John Fleischman's book:
http://www.amazon.com/Phineas-Gage-Gruesome-Story-Science/dp/0618494782/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1268521895&sr=1-1