An Odd Kind of Fame: Stories of Phineas Gage
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Macmillan, Malcolm. 2000. An Odd Kind of Fame: Stories of Phineas Gage. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN-13 9780262632591.

Considerable attention has been devoted to the 19th-century case of Phineas Gage, who lost a large section of his brain in a railway repair accident, but survived, albeit with dramatically altered moral behavior. His case is examined in depth by Malcolm Macmillan in An Odd Kind of Fame. Macmillan shows how the facts of the case have been repeatedly refashioned and reinterpreted, sometimes in contradictory ways, to fit different scientific ideals. Ultimately, few claims fit with what little is documented historically (including recent high-profile claims by neurophysiologist Hanna Damasio). The report by the original attending physician, John Harlow, is reproduced for reference. Ultimately, the case presents a fascinating, and sobering, lesson about the role of preconceptions in science and the potential for error valuable for understanding, and teaching about, the nature of science. We are well advised to think critically and skeptically when biologists address culture.

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