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The Curious Case of Phineas Gage. A railway worker in the 1800s, a iron rod passed through his head, and he recovered almost fully in a matter of months. I just wanted to tell you the story, no analysis or anything...it's just amazing, take what you want from it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phineas_Gage

http://www.deakin.edu.au/hmnbs/psychology/gagepage/


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A Bunny
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Good morning, John.

I am a bit worn out on philosophical musings, and, to tell you the truth, a bit worn out in general. Planning conferences is haaaard! So, today, instead of thinking too much about things that people usually don't think very much about, I'm just going to tell you the fascinating tale of Phineas Gage.

In 1848, Phineas Gage was a hard working, well-liked construction foreman, working on the railroad. He was helping to blow up the side of a mountain so that they could run a railroad through it, and this is something he had been doing for quite a long time. What you do is you drill a hole into a rock, and you put some blasting powder in there, and then you put some sand in there to pack it down, and then you pack it down with this rod.

So Phineas was doing this, and then someone distracted him. And I don't know what it was that distracted him. Maybe it was a raccoon, maybe it was a hot girl walking down the railway, but when Phineas came back to his work, he did not realize that he had not put the sand in, and so he shoved his little rod down the hole <'that's what she said' flashes on the screen> creating a spark, and the blasting powder ignited.

And his iron rod landed 80 feet away! Unfortunately there was something in between that hole and whatever it was that was 80 feet away, and that thing was Phineas Gage's head. The rod went through about here and came out like...here .

And now, those of you who do not know this story are expecting this story to end, because where could the story go from there? Well, three minutes later, Phineas Gage regained consciousness, started talking to people, walked over to a cart, got in the cart, sat up for the 3/4 mile travel back to his house, waited there for a doctor, and then when the doctor finally got there, they chatted about it! The doctor took some wonderful written notes, which we have copies of.

And I'm going to share some of that with you, though you may not want to listen if you're a little bit squeamish. The doctor wrote: I did not believe Mr. Gage's statement at the time, but thought he was deceived.

Mr. Gage persisted in saying that the rod went through his head! Mr.

Gage got up and vomited. The effort of the vomiting pushed out about half a teacup-full of brain, which fell onto the floor. The unit of measurement 'teacup-full' has...has since fallen out of use, but...but it's roughly...

WAY TOO MUCH BRAIN!! In that same visit, Phineas said to the doctor that he hoped he wasn't much hurt. To which the doctor presumably replied: "Eeehh.." In the coming weeks, Gage would drop in and out of a coma caused by hemorrhaging in his brain.

His family was assured that there was no possible way that he could live, which is also backed up by, you know, REASON. And they had his coffin, and his burial clothes all ready, and then two months after the accident, Phineas Gage was walking around, talking, basically a normal guy. He wasn't quite normal.

He wasn't quite the Phineas Gage that everyone had come to know and love. But on the whole, a lot healthier than you would expect from a guy who had lost several teacup-fulls of brain. So because of his behavioral problems, Phineas Gage did lose his construction job, but P.

T. Barnum, not to miss a weirdo, found this guy and his iron rod, and Phineas did a little tour with the circuses, earning some money that way. His psychological problems began to subside and he started holding down good jobs, and eventually he moved to Chile to become a long distance stagecoach driver in a place where people didn't know that he was Phineas Gage.

Twelve years after the accident, late onset epilepsy set in, which is very common in these kinds of injuries, and Phineas' health declined until he finally died. But the man had a three-and-a-half-foot long rod of iron pass through his head at hundreds of miles per hour! And he was pretty much okay for twelve years.

A final footnote to this bizarre tale: in 2009, a couple who loved to collect old photographs of people were scanning their collection and uploading it to the photo sharing website Flickr. They uploaded a picture that they called 'The Whaler', thinking that it was an injured whaler with his harpoon. Flickr quickly told them that there was no way that that big shaft of iron was any kind of harpoon.

But no one had any suggestions about what else it could be. Until somebody commented saying, you know, you may have a picture of Phineas Gage there, and if you do, it's the only picture of Phineas Gage that exists. And thus, one more reason why I love the internet.

Because it WAS the only picture of Phineas Gage, so John, behold! Phineas Gage! The only man to have ever had an iron rod pass through his skull at hundreds of miles per hour, and live to tell the tale.

I'll see you on Wednesday.