Tag Archives: brain

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science by Jon Fleischman

27 Apr

Phineas Gage is a biographical account  of  a man that accidentally lodges an iron rod into his head from an ill-fated dynamite accident. What is most remarkable about this story is that moments after this life altering event happens Phineas Gage is recounted as telling the story of what happened to himself with the iron rod still lodged in his head! Bystanders were quite perplexed. Fleischman does an effective job in narrative style revealing the events surrounding Gage’s accident using diagrams, charts and photographs chronicling his Gage’s accounts and the scientific community’s explanations. Additionally, Fleischman relates Phineas Gage’s story to the history of brain science and the amazing insight that Phineas Gage’s happening was able to provide to the scientific community and further the understanding of the brain and its processes.

This story is not for students that are squeamish. Fleischman provides vivid descriptions of this horrific event as well as accurate descriptions of the brain and its processes. This book comes highly recommended, especially for those students interested in how the brain works. This book should be considered for any middle school or high school library and is sure to be of great interest to students by making the impossible seem possible.


Holy cow! This guy got an iron rod lodged in his head and was still standing and talking after. Weird. Do I really need to say more? The human brain is an amazing thing and well…brains in general are just pretty awesome. Bird brains, fish brains…you name the brain and it is pure awesomeness! My husband had an uncle in Colombia that had a room full of preserved biological items. Yes, he was a doctor, but that is kind of creepy in a Dr. Jekyll and Hyde kind of way.

Suggested Library Activity:

School librarians can use this book to impress upon students the true joys of nonfiction. This book is an excellent book to use as a way of introducing nonfiction and nonfiction features to students. Using multiple copies of the book have students break out in to groups and with stickies identify and label nonfiction features such as captions, charts, sources, etc.

Bibliographic Citation:

Fleischman, J. (2002). Phineas Gage: A gruesome but true story about brain science. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Additional Book Review:

Gr 5-8 –Beginning with a medical miracle, and ending in mystery, this case study of a railroad worker who not only survived having an iron rod blast through his head, but also went on to lead a (more or less) normal life, serves as a rousing reminder that there is much about the brain that we do not know. The photos and computer-generated reconstructions are as striking (so to speak) as the story.

Peter, J. (2003, May 1). What’s the go of that? Message posted to