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The Postmortem Portraits of Phineas Gage

Picture: John Darrell Van Horn (C)

Vaughan Bell writes at Mind Hacks:

A new artform has emerged – the post-mortem neuroportrait. Its finest subject, Phineas Gage.

Gage was a worker extending the tracks of the great railways and suffered the most spectacular injury. As he was setting a gunpowder charge in a rock with a large tamping iron, the powder was lit by an accidental spark. The iron was launched through his skull.

He became famous in neuroscience because he lived – rare for the time – and had psychological changes as a result of his neurological damage.

His story has been better told elsewhere but the interest has not died – studies on Gage’s injury have continued to the present day.

There is a scientific veneer, of course, but it’s clear that the fascination with the freak Phineas has its own morbid undercurrents.

The image is key.

The first such picture was constructed with nothing more than pen and ink.

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