Phineas Gage

The American Crowbar Case

Who was he?

Phineas Gage was a 25 year old foreman in the construction of a railroad in 1848. While working he suffered from a serious brain injury that affected his character.

While working at the railroad workers often use dynamite to blast away rocks to clear paths for the railroad. While Gage was loading one, it had a malfunction and the rod inside it blew up through his brain. It enter and exited his brain knocking him to the ground. After a few minutes Gage got up and started talking and walking. He went to the doctor and got his wound fixed and he healed over time. As he healed his behavior started to change, he was rude and irreverent and said the grossest profanity. His friends said he was not himself anymore. The details of Gages life after the injury are unclear, but in 1860 he died from seizures that resulted from his injury.The doctors were amazed that he survived this massive blow, and later on discovered in the 19th century that the rod went through the frontal cortex of the brain which controls social cognition and decision making. Gage’s injuries provided some of the first evidence that the frontal cortex was involved in personality and behavior.