Phineas Gage

Each generation revises his myth. Here’s the true story.


On Sept. 13, 1848, at around 4:30 p.m., the time of day when the mind might start wandering, a railroad foreman named Phineas Gage filled a drill hole with gunpowder and turned his head to check on his men. It was the last normal moment of his life.


Above excerpt + Photo via Phineas Gage neuroscience case: True story of famous frontal lobe patient is better than textbook accounts | Salon.


On September 13, 1848, Gage was directing a work gang blasting rock while preparing the roadbed for the Rutland & Burlington Railroad outside the town of Cavendish, Vermont.  Setting a blast involved boring a hole deep into an outcropping of rock; adding blasting powder, a fuse, and sand; then compacting this charge into the hole using the tamping iron.  Gage was doing this around 4:30 p.m. when (possibly because the sand was omitted) the iron “struck fire” against the rock and the powder exploded.  Rocketing from the hole, the iron “entered on the [left] side of [Gage's] face … passing back of the left eye, and out at the top of the head.”‍ (via Wikipedia)


Very fascinating story, read many times, but introduced to me via Oliver Sacks’ writings. Will never pass up any opportunity to see what telling or retelling, or ‘current’ version is told. The Salon article does a nice job of introducing some much needed critical thinking into the many legends (most of which are familiar) and how we the readers treat them. It seems when retelling the life of someone, whether close to you or celebrity cause, it is very important that one does not serve the author’s ego. That should be removed and getting to the marrow of the story is more important than pushing forth your current agenda. See that all too often in storytelling.