Jack and Beverly Wilgus have had this daguerreotype for 30 years. They assumed it was a whaler holding the harpoon that blinded him. But someone who saw the image recently suggested it was Phineas Gage, a railroad worker who survived an iron rod piercing through his skull in 1848. Gage's resulting personality change led to a new understanding of neurology.
This is the only known image of Gage.
[Phineas] Gage was the 25-year-old foreman of a construction gang on Sept. 13, 1848, preparing a railroad bed outside Cavendish, Vt. As usual, he was using a pointed iron rod -- 3 feet, 7 inches long and 13 1/4 pounds -- to tamp gunpowder and sand into a hole drilled in the rock. But on that day, the mixture exploded, sending the rod through his left cheek and out through the top of his head.
A piercing image of Phineas Gage
It was successfully removed and, to the surprise of physicians, Gage lived 11 more years, dying after a series of increasingly violent convulsions. His story is a showpiece in neurology texts and folklore because of his survival and the abrupt changes in his personality.
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