John Fleischman uses his brain as a science writer with the American Society for Cell Biology and as a freelance writer for various magazines, including Discover, Muse, and Air & Space Smithsonian. He has been a science writer at the Harvard Medical School and a senior editor with Yankee and Ohio magazines. He lives in Ohio with his wife and a greyhound named Psyche.
Here is the true history of a friendship that almost wasn't.
John Leahr and Herb Heilbrun grew up in the same neighborhood and were in the same third grade class together. They were classmates — not friends — because Herb was white and John was black.
John and Herb were twenty-one when the United States entered WWII. Herb became an Army Air Forces B-17 bomber pilot. John flew P-51 fighters. Both were thrown into the brutal high-altitude bomber war against Nazi Germany, though they never met because the army was rigidly segregated — only in the air were black and white American fliers allowed to mix.
Both came safely home but it took Herb and John another fifty years to meet again and discover that their lives had run almost side by side through war and peace. Old friends at last, Herb and John launched a mission to tell young people why race once made all the difference and why it shouldn't anymore.
Phineas Gage was truly a man with a hole in his head. Phineas, a railroad construction foreman, was blasting rock near Cavendish, Vermont, in 1848 when a thirteen-pound iron rod was shot through his brain. Miraculously, he survived to live another eleven years and become a textbook case in brain science.
At the time, Phineas Gage seemed to completely recover from his accident. He could walk, talk, work, and travel, but he was changed. Gage "was no longer Gage," said his Vermont doctor, meaning that the old Phineas was dependable and well liked, and the new Phineas was crude and unpredictable. His case astonished doctors in his day and still fascinates doctors today. What happened and what didn't happen inside the brain of Phineas Gage will tell you a lot about how your brain works and how you act human.