The unbelievable story of Phineas Gage has amazed Neuroscientists for over 150 years. Not only did Gage survive having a large iron rod thrust directly through his brain, but he never lost consciousness! Let’s take a look at this horrific accident and the unlikely outcome.
This is the unbelievable story of Phineas Gage.
Gage, who was a blasting foreman on railway construction projects, was 25 years old at the time of his accident.
September 13, 1848.
This is the Rutland & Burlington Railroad pass through "cut" in the rock just south of Cavendish. Gage was a blasting foreman on developing railway construction projects. The accident occurred while he was setting explosives to create either this cut or a similar one nearby.
Gage's attention was distracted by his men working behind him.
Gage was directing a worker's blasting rock, which entailed creating a hole deep in an outcropping of rock, adding blasting powder and a fuse, and eventually a tamping iron was used to pack sand, clay, or other material into the hole above the powder.
Gage's skull "hinged" open as the iron passed through.
The tamping iron (which was 3’ 7” long and weighed over 13 pounds) rocketed from the hole and entered the left side of Gage's face in an upward direction, just forward of the angle of the lower jaw.
It continued upward outside the upper jaw, passed behind the left eye, through the left side of the brain, and out the top of the skull through the frontal bone.
The tamping iron landed about 80 feet away, and was covered with the remnants of passing through Gage's brain.
Gage was thrown onto his back and gave had brief convulsions but spoke within a few minutes and walked with little assistance. He sat upright in an oxcart for a 3⁄4 mile ride to town.
He never lost consciousness.
The doctor cleaned his wounds, removed the bits of brain that were out of the skull, and dressed the bandages so they could drain. After, the doctor wrote that "Mind clear. Constant agitation of his legs, being alternately retracted and extended like the shafts of a fulling mill. Says he 'does not care to see his friends, as he shall be at work in a few days.'"
Gage’s skull is now housed within the Harvard Medical School’s Countway Library of Medicine.
It is considered to be it’s most valuable specimen.
Phineas Gage lived for 12 years after his accident.
Naturally, his disposition was never quite the same.