Are You Winking at Me, Mr. Gage?

by Joy Monger

NPR just did a great story about a long lost photo of Phineas Gage, the textbook example of brain trauma’s effects on personality.  I always liked this story (does that make me creepy?), from the first time I heard it in Psych 101.

But the new twist is this photo that an older couple posted on flickr, thinking it was a picture of a whaler and his harpoon.

Turns out it’s ol’ Phinny holding the tamping iron that went through his skull, took his eye, and changed his personality forever.  No photo of Phineas had ever been seen before, and this one shows a smiling happy fellow, contrary to the “childlike, vulgar and coarse” man we all learned about.

It makes me feel hopeful.  Like maybe he wasn’t so unhappy after all.  That people can go through trauma and come out the other end with all sorts of emotions, including peace. Is that weird?

Either way, it’s a cool story.  Read it.