The Story of Phineas Gage’s Brain

The human brain.
Brains.

The human mind. Complex. Perplexing. Bemusing. Humans have studied it, and now we have some understanding thanks to very clever people with big beards; psychology, psychopathology, psychoanalysis, neurology, neurologicalology psychopathologyanalysis, tennis elbow, and Mud Flaps have all been put to good effect in the understandation of what goes on in the human brain.

A big help in all this was this chap called Phineas Gage, who on September 13th 1848 had a large iron rod blasted through his skull during a railroad accident. A 6kg rod quite literally went through his head – blasting out of his skull and flying off 80ft into the background. According to reports you could stand over him and stare directly through his head at the floor below.

The Brain

Gage was quite calm and collected about all of this, apparently, and within minutes was up and about and conversing with his colleagues. Much of his brain’s left frontal love was demolished in the incident, but Gage was alive and well, although he’d eventually succumb to his injuries in 1860 (almost 12 years after the incident).

Obviously doctors have clamped themselves onto his tale like limpets, and neurology students fawn over Mr. Gage and his mighty man brain. Despite his unusual survival, Mr. Gage suffered all manner of unusual personality changes following his accident, and also suffered from epileptic seizures.

Friends described him as being completely different to his former self. Consider this a free educational lesson, the hard work performed by Phineas. There are lots of accounts you can read about him, but many have been exaggerated as, you know, some people just like being sensationalist for the heck of it.

Still, it makes you think about brains though, right? It seems you don’t need all of it to survive, but having 100% is kind of handy. Particularly if you’re Albert Einstein. Innit. Still, full respect for Mr. Gage for seemingly getting on with his life post-accident. Very admirable indeed!

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