FYI September 13, 2020

On This Day

1848 – Vermont railroad worker Phineas Gage survives an iron rod 1 1⁄4 inches (3.2 cm) in diameter being driven through his brain; the reported effects on his behavior and personality stimulate discussion of the nature of the brain and its functions.
Phineas P. Gage (July 9, 1823 – May 21, 1860) was an American railroad construction foreman remembered for his improbable[B1]:19 survival of an accident in which a large iron rod was driven completely through his head, destroying much of his brain’s left frontal lobe, and for that injury’s reported effects on his personality and behavior over the remaining 12 years of his life‍—‌effects sufficiently profound (for a time at least) that friends saw him as “no longer Gage.” [H]:14

Long known as the “American Crowbar Case”‍—‌once termed “the case which more than all others is cal­cu­lated to excite our wonder, impair the value of prognosis, and even to subvert our phys­i­o­log­i­cal doctrines” [2]‍—‌Phineas Gage influenced 19th-century discussion about the mind and brain, par­tic­u­larly debate on cerebral local­i­za­tion,​​[M]:ch7-9[B] and was perhaps the first case to suggest the brain’s role in deter­min­ing per­son­al­ity, and that damage to specific parts of the brain might induce specific mental changes.

Gage is a fixture in the curricula of neurology, psychology, and neuroscience,[3][M7]:149 one of “the great medical curiosities of all time”[M8] and “a living part of the medical folklore” [R]:637 frequently mentioned in books and scientific papers;[M]:ch14 he even has a minor place in popular culture.[4] Despite this celebrity, the body of established fact about Gage and what he was like (whether before or after his injury) is small,[note 2] which has allowed “the fitting of almost any theory [desired] to the small number of facts we have” [M]:290‍—‌Gage acting as a “Rorschach inkblot” [5] in which proponents of various conflicting theories of the brain all saw support for their views. Historically, published accounts of Gage (including scientific ones) have almost always severely exaggerated and distorted his behavioral changes, frequently contradicting the known facts.

A report of Gage’s physical and mental condition shortly before his death implies that his most serious mental changes were temporary, so that in later life he was far more functional, and socially far better adapted, than in the years immediately following his accident. A social recovery hypothesis suggests that his work as a stagecoach driver in Chile fostered this recovery by providing daily structure which allowed him to regain lost social and personal skills.

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Born On This Day

1818 – Lucy Goode Brooks, Former American slave and a founder of Friends’ Asylum for Colored Orphans (d. 1900)[6]
Lucy Goode Brooks (September 13, 1818 – October 7, 1900) was an American slave who was instrumental in the founding of the Friends’ Asylum for Colored Orphans in Richmond, Virginia.

Early life and education
Goode was born on September 13, 1818,[1] in Virginia to the slave Judith Goode and a white man. She met another slave, Albert Royal Brooks, and taught him to read and write so that they could write passes to see each other. When her master died in 1838, she became the property of a man named Sublett. That same year, she joined the First Baptist Church of Richmond. Shortly after Goode became Sublett’s property, he allowed her to marry Brooks on February 2, 1839 and allowed them to live together. Albert’s owner allowed him to operate a livery stable, for which he collected rent, but also permitted Albert to keep his additional earnings and use them to buy his freedom. In 1841 when the Baptist church divided, she was one of the group that joined in forming the First African Baptist Church.[2]

Career
When Sublett died in 1858, his heirs threatened to sell Lucy and her children to different masters. She was able to negotiate with merchants who purchased her children and allowed them to live with her as long as they showed up for work daily. The sole exception was a daughter who was sold to owners in Tennessee.[3] The knowledge that they could be separated made the Brookses work hard to try to buy the freedom of Lucy and the children. Her new master, Daniel Von Groning, who also owned her three youngest boys, allowed Albert to pay for their freedom in installments. It took four years, but on October 21, 1862, their deed of manumission was signed. The older three boys were not freed until the Civil War was ended.[2]

The loss of her daughter and a previous son—who had been sold away as an infant—motivated Brooks to try to help children who were separated from their parents, after the war had ended.[3] The Freedmen’s Bureau initially offered temporary rations and care for abandoned children, but by the fall of 1865 increasingly tried to shift the burden to local relief efforts and benevolent societies.[4] Brooks, who was a leader of the Ladies Sewing Circle for Charitable Work, convinced the other ladies to help organize an orphanage.[2] She then gained the support of several churches, including the local Quaker congregation to help found the Friends’ Asylum for Colored Orphans.[3] The plan was approved and building’s location was authorized by the city council in 1867, with the orphanage opening two years later.[5] The organization is still operational and functions as the Friends Association for Children,[6] though its current focus is to provide childcare and family support services to low- and moderate-income families.[7]

Brooks died on October 7, 1900 in Richmond, Virginia,[8] and she was buried in the Mechanic’s Cemetery of Richmond.[1] She was honored in 2008 by a Virginia Historical Marker being erected at the corner of Charity and Saint Paul Streets.[9] A book about her life was published in 1989.[10]

 
 

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