Friday, November 13, 2015

Module 12: Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science

Book Summary: Phineas Gage is a biography detailing the life of Phineas Gage, a railway foreman who has a steel pipe go through his brain and lived. However, it forever changed his personality. He became a major study in medicine and psychology. The way the brain works and is affected by outside stimulus has fascinated many, and Phineas was the perfect example to study.

APA Reference: Fleischman, J. (2002). Phineas Gage: A gruesome but true story about brain science. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin.

Impressions: A fascinating read about a fascinating case, Phineas Gage gives us details about the life of the man who forever changed brain science. One of the more interesting aspects of this book is actually the fact it's written in present tense, as if we are traveling through the life of Phineas Gage right now. There are also plenty of good pictures to show us various people involved as well as scientific explanation photographs

Professional Review: 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.

Engelfried, S. (2002). Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science (Book). [Review of the book Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science, by John Fleischman]. School Library Journal, 48(3), 247-248.

Library Uses: Used for a book talk regarding strong biographies for older elementary-aged children.

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