Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science

4.1 24
by John Fleischman
     
 

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Phineas Gage was truly a man with a hole in his head. Phineas, a railroad construction foreman, was blasting rock near Cavendish, Vermont, in 1848 when a thirteen-pound iron rod was shot through his brain. Miraculously, he survived to live another eleven years and become a textbook case in brain science. At the time, Phineas Gage seemed to completely recover from his

Overview

Phineas Gage was truly a man with a hole in his head. Phineas, a railroad construction foreman, was blasting rock near Cavendish, Vermont, in 1848 when a thirteen-pound iron rod was shot through his brain. Miraculously, he survived to live another eleven years and become a textbook case in brain science. At the time, Phineas Gage seemed to completely recover from his accident. He could walk, talk, work, and travel, but he was changed. Gage "was no longer Gage," said his Vermont doctor, meaning that the old Phineas was dependable and well liked, and the new Phineas was crude and unpredictable. His case astonished doctors in his day and still fascinates doctors today. What happened and what didn't happen inside the brain of Phineas Gage will tell you a lot about how your brain works and how you act human.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Science writer John Fleischman uses a clipped, engaging expository style to tell the incredible story of the railroad worker who, in 1848, survived the piercing blast of a 13-pound iron rod as it entered below his cheekbone and exited the front of his skull in Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story about Brain Science. Photographs, glossary, a resource listing and index lend this textbook case the same sense of immediacy as do the words. (Mar.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA
Blasting specialist Phineas Gage was tamping powder in preparation for exploding rock away from the path of the railroad near Cavendish, Vermont, in 1848 when a hideous accident simultaneously altered his life and the way medicine thought about how the brain functions. His tamping iron shot through his skull, apparently missing all vital parts of the brain. It was removed safely, and he recovered, carrying the rod with him the rest of his life. Previously he had been a hard-working foreman, well-liked by his men. After the accident, he seemed to lose his social senses, no longer relating appropriately to others. His ability to evaluate risk and profit were gone. When offered
— Lynn Hawkins
The damaged skull on the cover beckons one to open the book and, once opened, it is difficult to close. Inside awaits a compelling story. The setting is 1848, medical science is still in its infancy, bacteria are unknown, blood-letting is not uncommon, and people thought that the bumps on your head were a window into your personality. Enter Phineas Gage, an ordinary man made extraordinary by accident. He was quite literally a man with a hole in his head. Phineas Gage worked for the railroad, blasting tunnels through mountains. One September day, by accident or oversight (eyewitness accounts vary) his tamping bar, a thirteen-pound iron rod, was blasted through his head. Accidents like this were not uncommon, but the end result of this one was amazing. Thirty minutes later, he was sitting on his porch telling everyone what had just happened, and for nearly twelve years, Phineas Gage lived, or perhaps a part of him did. John Fleischman continues with the rest of the story. He skillfully sets the scene of the period and the state of medicine. In plain language, he writes about the advances on the medical horizon, not yet available to help Phineas. Fleischman's description of brain function and scientific developments in brain science are just enough for the reader to understand the importance of this unlikely survivor and spark interest in further studying of the subject. Thoughtfully included are historical photographs, a glossary and clear diagrams that all combine to enhance the text. The bibliography includes books and websites where one can learn more. So read the book and decide for yourself if Phineas was lucky or not. You'll certainly be pulled into the tale of the man with the holein his head. 2002, Houghton Mifflin,
— Todd Grazier
Children's Literature
At approximately four thirty in the afternoon of September 13, 1848, twenty-six-year old Phineas Gage was about to experience a horrific injury. A capable foreman working with a railroad blasting crew in Cavendish, Vermont, Phineas was tamping down black powder when an explosion occurred. Phineas' thirteen pound steel tamping iron was thrown upward by the explosion and shot through his head. The tapered tamping iron pierced Phineas' left cheek and then continued on through his brain and out the top of his skull. Miraculously, Phineas was alive and, although terribly injured, able to speak and move about. Phineas was rushed to town where physicians treated him as capably as they could. To the amazement of everyone familiar with the incident, Phineas Gage recovered and lived for eleven more years. However, as his doctor noted, Phineas Gage was "no longer Gage." Phineas' demeanor and attitude toward others had changed from one of cordiality to one of abuse. Eventually, Phineas Gage died of the aftereffects of his grave injury. Yet, his story remains one of the most incomprehensible medical anecdotes of modern times. That story is artfully told in this outstanding illustrated text. Readers of this fascinating book will become acquainted with both the unbelievable tale of Phineas Gage as well as valuable information about the workings of the human brain.
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up-The fascinating story of the construction foreman who survived for 10 years after a 13-pound iron rod shot through his brain. Fleischman relates Gage's "horrible accident" and the subsequent events in the present tense, giving immediacy to the text. He avoids sensationalizing by letting the events themselves carry the impact. The straightforward description of Gage calmly chatting on a porch 30 minutes after the accident, for example, comes across as horrifying and amazing. The author presents scientific background in a conversational style and jumps enthusiastically into such related topics as phrenology, 19th-century medical practices, and the history of microbiology. He shows how Gage's misfortune actually played an intriguing and important role in the development of our knowledge of the brain. The present-tense narrative may cause occasional confusion, since it spans several time periods and dates are not always immediately apparent from the text. Illustrations include historical photographs; one showing the iron bar posed dramatically next to Gage's skull is particularly impressive. Other photos and diagrams help explain the workings of the brain. The work of Gage expert Malcolm Macmillan, cited in the list of resources, seems the likely main source for the quotes and details of Gage's life, but this is not clearly spelled out in the text or appendixes. Like Penny Colman's Corpses, Coffins, and Crypts (Holt, 1997) and James M. Deem's Bodies from the Bog (Houghton, 1998), Phineas Gage brings a scientific viewpoint to a topic that will be delightfully gruesome to many readers.-Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Gruesome indeed: in 1848, an explosion blew a 13-pound iron rod through railroad worker Gage's head. Not only did he survive, he never even lost consciousness, going on to become a medical marvel and to live almost another dozen years. Was Gage lucky, or just the opposite? Carefully separating fact from legend, Fleischman traces Gage's subsequent travels and subtle but profound personality changes, then lets readers decide. Writing in present tense, which sometimes adds immediacy, other times just comes across as artificial, Fleischman fleshes out the tale with looks at mid-19th-century medicine, the history of brain science, and how modern researchers have reconstructed Gage's accident with high-tech tools. He also adds eye-widening photos of Gage's actual skull (now at Harvard), his life mask, and dramatic rod-through-bone computer images that, as the author writes, will make you wince "whether you're a brain surgeon or a sixth grader." Readers compelled to know more-and that should be just about everyone-will find a helpful, annotated list of print and electronic sources at the end of this riveting (so to speak) study. (index, glossary) (Nonfiction. 11-13)
From the Publisher

"Carefully separating fact from legend, Fleischman traces Gage's subsequent travels and subtle but profound personality changes." Kirkus Reviews, Starred

"Phineas Gage brings a scientific viewpoint to a topic that will be delightfully gruesome to many readers." School Library Journal

"The riveting topic will draw all kinds of readers, and they'll be fascinated even as they're educated." The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Fleischman's bold, present-tense writing draws the reader into the story from the first sentence." Horn Book

"Fleischman is a fine science writer, and he has organized his book adroitly." Riverbank Review

"Science writer Fleischman uses a clipped, engaging expository style to tell this incredible story." Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780618494781
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
11/28/2004
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
96
Sales rank:
89,574
Product dimensions:
7.50(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.32(d)
Lexile:
1030L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 11 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Carefully separating fact from legend, Fleischman traces Gage's subsequent travels and subtle but profound personality changes." Kirkus Reviews, Starred

"Phineas Gage brings a scientific viewpoint to a topic that will be delightfully gruesome to many readers." School Library Journal

"The riveting topic will draw all kinds of readers, and they'll be fascinated even as they're educated." The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Fleischman's bold, present-tense writing draws the reader into the story from the first sentence." Horn Book

"Fleischman is a fine science writer, and he has organized his book adroitly." Riverbank Review

"Science writer Fleischman uses a clipped, engaging expository style to tell this incredible story." Publishers Weekly

Meet the Author


John Fleischman uses his brain as a science writer with the American Society for Cell Biology and as a freelance writer for various magazines, including Discover, Muse, and Air & Space Smithsonian. He has been a science writer at the Harvard Medical School and a senior editor with Yankee and Ohio magazines. He lives in Ohio with his wife and a greyhound named Psyche.

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Phineas Gage 4.2 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 25 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow! I ust got done reading this book in my 5th grade reading class and its amazing that Phineas lived for another 11 years,6 months, and 19 days after the tamping iron wen tthrough his skull!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think that this book is remarkable. Its the best book you will every read on a brain accident
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book with tons of info
cjf3301 More than 1 year ago
This is a very gory book about a man named Phineas Gage. He was injured in a railroad accident were a rod went through his cheek and then right through his head. Surprisingly he lived to tell about his horrible accident. Doctors were not sure how or why he lived, but what they did know was that he became a completely different person than he was before the incident. His people from his town no longer wanted anything to do with this previous good willed man. He started to star in traveling shows as the living man with a hole in his head. This is a real life twisted story with interesting detail. I personally did not enjoy this book it was a little too graphic for me. It was very science oriented and went into very specific detail about the brain and about medicine. I would recommend it for someone that loves science and that wants to learn about the brain and brain injuries. I did find interesting the effects that injury takes on the brain. So this is a great book just not for the non-science non-gruesome person.
wishtonwish More than 1 year ago
My mother recently had a massive stroke in her right frontal lobe. Physically she is doing very well, but mentally, she just isn't the same. This book and Phineas' story helped me to better visualize and understand just what that stroke did to her. And it's a very interesting story in its own right.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you like brain science, this is the book for you, but if not, I would not recommend it. The reason why I bought it was because I thought it was going to be a gruesome and interesting, but instead it was not that gruesome and not very interesting. The author talks about the brain way too much.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought it was very interesting and imformative.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My teacher mrs landis told my class we should read this it turns out it was very good i love medical science!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This story is a docamentry about a man named Phineas Gage, a young man that got a a sharp-rod shaped stick in his head and lived for anothe 11 years. This story included alotot of gory parts in including a picture with the sharp stick through phineas head!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hshdv
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very interesting true story of a man who should have died or been left brain dead from his injuries. Althou he was changed after the accident but by the grace of God he lived 11 yrs. after his accident!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hhh
Annoyingguy More than 1 year ago
This is the a book about the accident of Phineas Gage in Vermont. But I would say about 40+% of the book is about brain science, and it often gets carried away with these explanations. These should be here just not all of it should be be here. So the beginning of the book gives an interesting description of the horrible accident that happened to PG and how he is somehow still alive with a pole going through his skull and brain. But it then describes the beliefs of brain science that existed back then. The problem is the fact that that chapter isn't very related to what the author had just described. The information is good, but not what I was looking for/wanted from this book. It does tell a brief story of the rest of Phineas's life though. But there are some chapters that were not very related to the incident itself, although I believe that one of these chapters explains why and how Phineas changed so much after his so called, "Full Recovery." These other chapters are not out of the ballpark, but not really the information we want from a book describing a horrible accident in Vermont and what the survivor did after enduring an injury that you would think would kill anyone instantly. YES, HOWEVER, it is still a cool book, and if you like reading about really amazing things, you should at least check this out. Although it didn't affect me, certain people might be scared/creeped out by this story, so don't read this if you are rather sensitive to these kinds of things, but if you are, you probably aren't reading this review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this in i think 7th grade
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
:(