The chilling story of Phineas Gage


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Gage poses with the very rod that changed his life forever.

Daphne L.

Phineas Gage has gone down in history as “the man who began neuroscience”. Gage advanced the scientific community’s knowledge in many areas–neuroscience, psychology, and more.

Gage was 25 when he was working as a supervisor of a group of people making a foundation for laying a railroad track in Vermont. Part of the job was to put explosive powder into a hole using an iron rod.

However, a spark between the rod and the powder caused an explosion. Gage’s iron rod shot through his skull, penetrating his left cheek and exiting through his head.

No one thought Gage could survive the incident, but he shocked everyone by not only surviving, but also being able to speak, walk, and remember everything about himself. In a conversation with one doctor, Gage even said he expected to be back to work in “a day or two”.

Gage’s injury soon became infected, causing him to be in a semi-comatose state for around ten days. Weeks later, Gage went to live with his parents. Even after his medical scare, Gage was still functioning fully (except for vision in the eye above the penetrated cheekbone).

Unfortunately, Gage’s personality is what was most affected by his accident. While before the injury he was known to be polite, hardworking, and determined, the Gage that emerged from the accident was known as aggressive, rude, and unable to keep a job.

With this last trait holding true, Gage was unable to hold his job and eventually just decided to live with his parents. In 1860, just shy of 12 years after the accident, Gage went through a series of seizures and ended up dying.

Gage’s case had great impact on the psychology world and is still being researched and talked about today. Gage’s case helped scientists discover that different areas of the brain control different areas of someone’s being, such as their personality rather than their motor control.