A daguerreotype made public last week is believed to be the only known image of Phineas Gage (1823-1860).
Gage was a 25-year-old foreman, fit and well-regarded. His crew were digging a railroad bed near Cavendish, Vt. Late on the afternoon of Sept. 13, 1848, he wielded a specially made iron - it measured 3 feet 7 inches long and weighed 13 pounds - to pack blasting powder into rock. A close examination of the object clutched by the man in the picture shows an inscription matching the engraving on the tamping iron, which reads in part, “This is the bar that was shot through the head of Mr. Phineas P. Gage.’’
An explosion erupted. “And we think the tamping iron went all the way through the skull - like a missile,’’ said Dr. Ion-Florin Talos, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
He has had enduring fame as the index case of an individual who suffered major personality changes after brain trauma. As such, he is a legend in the annals of neurology, which is largely based on the study of brain-damaged patients.
“It’s kind of a wonder,’’ Dr. Talos said, “and wonders are always fascinating.’’
From the Boston Globe.
Another fascinating account of the case appears at Neurophilosophy.