Monday, November 30, 2009

Best Post of July '09: Behold! Phineas Gage revealed!

The next in our series of "Best Posts of the Month" is from July 30, 2009:


The Los Angeles Times reports that a daguerreotype depicting Phineas Gage has been discovered. In the next issue of the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences, an article establishing the identity of the man holding an iron rod (see photo above) is that of Mr. Gage. This is the only known photograph of perhaps the most legendary neurology patient in history. To illustrate the executive function orchestrated by the prefrontal lobes, medical students throughout the country are told the story of the railroad construction foreman Phineas Gage, who, in 1848, suffered an accident on the job which resulted in a 13-pound iron rod shooting through the front of his brain. Gage survived the accident, and lived 11 years more. But he was never the same, exhibiting "frontal release" signs characterized by disinhibition and impulsivity.

The photograph was discovered by Jack and Beverly Wilgus, a couple from Massachusetts who owned the photograph for 30 years, thinking it depicted a whaler holding a harpoon. When they posted the picture online, an anonymous tipster suggested it might be Gage. The LA Times article continues the story: "Intrigued, the Wilguses compared their image to that of a life mask at Harvard Medical School's Warren Anatomical Museum and found it could be superimposed perfectly, with scars lining up correctly. Apparent writing on the metal rod in the image matches writing on Gage's iron rod, which is also in the Warren Museum."

1 comment:

Allie said...

Sorry for being a nerd, but I just learned of Gage in my psychology class. It's kind of exciting to read about him on a blog.