Guy with the railroad spike (Phineas Gage)

Stephen Black sblack at HERA.UBISHOPS.CA
Tue Aug 20 09:43:36 EST 1996


In response to the request for information on the case of Phineas Gage,
several posts have recommended Damasio's book, Descartes' Error and his
recent publication in Science (May 20, 1994, p. 1053-). If I recall
correctly, there probably is not much historical information on the case
in this book, although the Science article does provide some detail.

Elliot Valenstein also briefly reviews the case in his book "Brain 
Control" (p. 301-303) but the definitive source I'd like to recommend is 
the following:

Macmillan, M. (1986). A wonderful journey through skull and brains: the
  travels of Mr. Gage's tamping iron. Brain and cognition, 5, 67-107.

This provides an extensive documented account of the case.

BTW, a few years ago, I passed through the town of Cavendish, Vermont,
where these events took place in 1848, and was surprised to discover that
one of its most famous inhabitants had barely been heard of in the town. 
I had expected perhaps a bronze statue of Phineas Gage, posed with tamping
iron protruding from his skull, but I was sadly disappointed. Not even a
plaque appears to commemorate the historic event. It seems the town is
much better known for its other previous famous inhabitant, the writer
Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn, who lived there for a number of years in exile. 

I corresponded with the local historical society about their omission, 
and received a cordial reply with the promise to do better in publicizing 
Phineas Gage's remarkable accident at Cavendish.

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Stephen Black, Ph.D.                      tel: (819) 822-9600 ext 470
Department of Psychology                  fax: (819) 822-9661
Bishop's University                    e-mail: sblack at hera.ubishops.ca
Lennoxville, Quebec               
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Canada                                   
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