Missed in History: Phineas Gage

BY Tracy V. Wilson / POSTED September 11, 2013
Hammerbrook - City can this really be true?
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phineas gage Phineas Gage’s skull and the infamous tamping iron. (Used by a Creative Commons CC-BY license from Flickr user jedimentat.)

It’s another listener request this week, with a story that’s been requested so many times that we once again cannot count them all. Phineas Gage survived an extreme injury to his head and brain after an accident 165 years ago: The tamping iron he was using to lay charges for a railroad bed flew all the way through his skull. All the way. It landed several yards away.

Incredibly, he survived – though altered – and has become an oft-cited – though often inaccurate – case study for how brain injuries can affect behavior.

Our listener mail is from Elizabeth about our Charlie Parkhurst episode.

For more knowledge: How Lobotomies Work

Episode link: Phineas Gage

My research:

  • “The Phineas Gage Case.” Warren Anatomical Museum. https://www.countway.harvard.edu/menuNavigation/chom/warren/exhibits.html
  • Bigelow, Henry J. “Dr. Harlow’s Case of Recovery from the Passage of an Iron Bar Through the Head.” The American Journal of the Medical Sciences. July 1850.
  • Harlow, J.M. “Passage of Iron Rod Through the Head.” Boston Medical and Surgical Journal. Vol. XXXIX, No. 20. Dec. 13, 1848.
  • Harlow, John M. “Recovery from the Passage of an Iron Bar Through the Head.” 1868.
  • MacMillan, Malcolm. “John Martyn Harlow: `Obscure Country Physician’?” Journal of the History of the Neurosciences. Vol. 10, No. 2. 2011.
  • MacMillon, Malcolm. “Phineas Gage Information Page.” http://www.uakron.edu/gage/
  • McMillan, Malcolm. “Phineas Gage – Unraveling the Myth.” The Psychologist. Vol. 21, No. 9, Sept. 2008.
  • Twomey, Steve. “Phineas Gage: Neuroscience’s Most Famous Patient.” Smithsonian Magazine. Jan. 2010. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Phineas-Gage-Neurosciences-Most-Famous-Patient.html
  • Van Horn JD, Irimia A, Torgerson CM, Chambers MC, Kikinis R, et al. (2012) Mapping Connectivity Damage in the Case of Phineas Gage. PLoS ONE 7(5): e37454. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037454 http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0037454
  • Wilgus, Jack and Beverly Wilgus. “Face to Face with Phineas Gage.” Journal of the History of the Neurosciences. Vol. 18. 2009.

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