Popular Science Monthly/Volume 15/June 1879/Correspondence


To the Editors of the Popular Science Monthly.

IN your February number, the article on "The Old Phrenology and the New," by Dr. Andrew Wilson, struck me as having been conceived not only with some degree of prejudice, but a lack of sufficient care in reference to facts. I will refer you to one case which relates to Mr. Gage, who had an iron bar driven through his brain by a blasting accident. Dr. Wilson conveys the idea that his mental faculties were unaffected by this most extraordinary injury and loss of brain. Dr. J. M. Harlow, now of Woburn, Massachusetts, had charge of the case, and followed with great care the wanderings of this young man, after he recovered from his injury; and after his death, which occurred in California, twelve years after the accident, he was able to get the cranium and the iron bar that passed through it, and presented them, with a detailed account of the case, to the Massachusetts Medical Society; and they are now in the Museum of Harvard College. In this paper Dr. Harlow says, in reference to the changed condition of the mental faculties: "His physical health is good, and I am inclined to say he has recovered. Has no pain in head, but says it has a queer feeling which he is not able to describe. Applied for his situation as foreman, but is undecided whether to work or travel. His contractors, who regarded him as the most efficient and capable foreman in their employ previous to his injury, considered the change in his mind so marked that they could not give him his place again. The equilibrium or balance, so to speak, between his intellectual faculties and animal propensities seems to have been destroyed. He is fitful, irreverent, indulging at times in the grossest profanity (which was not previously his custom), manifesting but little deference for his fellows, impatient of restraint or advice when it conflicts with his desires, at times pertinaciously obstinate, yet capricious and vacillating, devising many plans of future operations, which are no sooner arranged than they are abandoned in turn for others appearing more feasible. A child in his intellectual capacity and manifestations, he has the animal passions of a strong man. Previous to his injury, though untrained in the schools, he possessed a well-balanced mind, and was looked upon by those who knew him as a shrewd, smart business man, very energetic and persistent in executing all his plans of operation. In this regard his mind was radically changed, so decided that his friends and acquaintances said he was ‘no longer Gage.’"

In this case of injury of the brain and recovery, unparalleled, and of world-wide interest, I deem it proper that the error in reference to the condition of the intellectual faculties should be corrected through your periodical.Truly,

John Clough.

Woburn, Massachusetts, March 31, 1879.