Discussion of Phineas Gage in Correspondence of Henry J. Bigelow to Dr. Jewett

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Discussion of Phineas Gage in Correspondence of Henry J. Bigelow to Dr. Jewett


Gage, Phineas
Bigelow, Henry Jacob, 1818-1890
Brain -- Wounds and injuries
Brain -- Localization of functions
Head Injuries, Penetrating


Dr. Henry J. Bigelow writes a letter to Dr. Jewett about Linn, a man with a similar case to Phineas Gage. Bigelow offers advice for different options on how Linn could live his life post accident. An alternative is to continue to study from Linn for medical research.


Bigelow, Henry Jacob, 1818-1890

Date Created

1868 May 12


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Is Part Of

need to locate in finding aid - Warren Anatomical Museum Records, Series




1 letter (3 pages)









Boston May 12th 1868
Dr. Jewett
Dear Sir: -

Your favor of April 29th is before me. In regard to the chance of Linn’s making a living at any museum, I can only say that Gage, who was a shrewd and intelligent man and quite disposed to do anything of that sort to turn an honest penny, (that style of living being also quite to his taste) tried it for a short time at New York at Barnum’s, then abandoned it. The sort of thing has not much interest for the general public, and the doctors are proverbially unwilling to be assessed permanently for such matters. As for the Paris faculty collectively or singly, money sums to be the one thing in least abundance and in most demand among them. If you ask my opinion upon this point, I think if he fell into fortunate hands, an inconsiderable sum of money could perhaps be raised for him, while the interested was alive and new, say for a few days and in the principal cities; but I honestly do not believe that this would cover his travelling expenses and certainly not those of an attendant, even for a short time and that with considerable uncertainty and exertion. Your letter speaks of having him “retained as a public curiosity in some of our stationery museums here, after you should bring him East, as you kindly offer to do.

I really feel so much interest in the case in connection with that of Gage, that your propositions has led me to cast about to see if anything could be done to meet his proposal, which I misser to look toward providing for him, some support of a lasting character.

After consulting with gentlemen having authority in the matter, I am enabled to say that if you will deliver him here in any way most convenient and agreeable to yourself, he shall be comfortably and permanently provided for in our State institution for the Poor which is situated in the country at the distance of about an hour from Boston.

I will also myself be responsible for the travelling expenses of himself and attendant here and back, and board while here. My sole object being to the scientific interest I feel in this case and my only remuneration, the opportunity of studying it as leisure. I feel authorized to ask, in view of the difficulty of obtaining the concession for his support, that the charge of the case, gas pipe xc be made over to me as the only person here now cognizant of it; and that the case should not be seen by any medical gentlemen in the cities before it reaches me, so that whatever I might publish as a more extended account of your case should be new except so far as you yourself had previously given it publicity.

I should also be glad to be able to show the man at the meeting of out State Medical Society here, the 2d and 3d of June prox. I dare say you would enjoy yourself here for a short time, looking about, and the Society dine together on the 3d where and elsewhere, I shall be happy to do what I can to make your stay agreeable. Of course if the man gets well enough to earn his living, he will hardly want to stay I a public institution, but if not, or if he gets worse, has fits, xc as Gage ultimately did, he can hardly do better.

You will be greatly interested in a communication which will be made to our society on June 3d – in respect to Gage’s case, the nature of whose injury and its reality is now beyond doubt, fortunately. But up to this time it has had its disbelievers. I have recorded a letter within a month, to prove that in spite of the evidence, circumstantial and intrinsic, the accident could not have happened. I trust that the evidence in your case is clear enough to satisfy such incredulity.

Pray let me hear from you as soon as convenient after you receive this stating freely how this meets your views.

Very truly and respectfully
Henry J. Bigelow

May I ask of you the favor to consider this letter for obvious reasons, and quickly that part of it relating to the proposal for his permanent care, as strictly private, except so far as it may be necessary to communicate it to those now in charge of him,




Bigelow, Henry Jacob, 1818-1890, “Discussion of Phineas Gage in Correspondence of Henry J. Bigelow to Dr. Jewett,” OnView, accessed June 21, 2024, https://collections.countway.harvard.edu/onview/items/show/25396.

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