Monday, January 11, 2016

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science, by John Fleischman

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science may be a short book (just shy of 80 pages), but it's exteremely interesting. And, as the title promises, it's kind of gross and freaky if you think too much about it. Or even a little.

And you will think about it! Really. How can you not?!? I mean, the guy had a metal rod blasted through his skull!!

The year is 1848. Phineas Gage, 26, a foreman for Rutland & Burlington Railroad, is heading up the construction of the rail passage through Vermont's Green Mountains. As you might imagine, there is quite a lot of rock to plow through. But back then there were no bulldozers, cranes, or drills. No modern equiptment. To do what they did, the men had to use picks, shovles, and manual labor. They also used (highly volitile) black powder to blast through rock. It was dangerous work, and safetey standards were pretty lax. So accidents were common. 

On a late summer afternoon, Phineas Gage was victim to one such accident. While packing a hole with black powder, the charge misfired and blasted Gage's 13-pound iron packing rod back toward him...and right through his head! The rod entered just below the eye, passed through his frontal lobe of his brain, and out through the top of his skull near the hairline. 

Such an injury should have killed Phineas Gage--especially back then when medical science was still pretty primitive. But it didn't. In fact, he lived another 11 years! 

How did he survive so long? Were there any consequences to such a severe injury? You'll just have to read the book to find out.

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science, by John Fleischman, talks a lot about the anatomy and science of the brain. And it also goes pretty in-depth (at times) about advances in medicine since Gage's time. But it does so in a way that's not boring. I promise! Not unlike one of my favorite TV shows, Mythbusters, Phineas Gage entertains while it educates.

Bonus Round #1: You can gross out your friends and impress your teachers by things you've read in this book. 

Bonus Round #2: It's got a skull on the cover, so you'll look cool reading it in public.

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science is awesome on multiple levels. And I definitely recommend it. 


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