Mary Cybulski/Cinemax
Mary Cybulski/Cinemax

5 Things We Learned from The Knick's Medical Advisor

Mary Cybulski/Cinemax
Mary Cybulski/Cinemax

Dr. Stanley Burns is the medical advisor for The Knick, a medical drama starring Clive Owen and directed by Steven Soderbergh. We have a lengthy interview with Dr. Burns; here are five highlights.

1. His Million-Photo Collection is Mostly Organized in His Head

When I asked how Dr. Burns keeps his collection organized, his answer surprised me:

Dr. Burns: It's in my head. [E]very time we do a book, then that subject gets organized, it gets scanned, it gets numbered, labeled. So that as far as [the upcoming book] Stiffs, Skulls & Skeletons is concerned, the book will have 450 photographs, but in order to produce that we've scanned about somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 images from which we edit it down.

2. Clive Owen Could Suture You Up

Dr. Burns taught the cast basic medical procedures so they could do a convincing job on-camera...and the actors feel quite confident about their skills.

Dr. Burns: [The actors said], "Well, if I came across an accident or if I had to suture someone up now, I know how to do it." And this was a general comment right across the board and it is something great to learn, how to be able to put stitches in and take stitches and do all that.

Dr. Burns added, "I'd let Clive suture me up."

3. Doctors Became Addicts Via Self-Experimentation

Discussing the various drug addictions depicted in the show, Dr. Burns explained that these addictions sometimes came about because doctors were doing their jobs.

Dr. Burns: [Addictions were] common, but not for the reasons that you think. It was common because this was an era when doctors experimented on themselves. [...] I always talk about the great neurologist Henry Head, who cut his own nerves, and of course he would have a permanent defect afterwards, to find out what innervation was and what it was like. ... [Doctors] practiced on themselves and they didn't know the side effects of all these drugs.

4. Pioneers of the X-Ray Lost Fingers

Asked about the dangers presented by early X-ray machines shown on The Knick, Dr. Burns told me a rather grim story.

Dr. Burns: How dangerous? [...] Edison, who of course was a great electrical scientist of the era, because you need electricity to run the machine, recognized that his hands were getting red, I think, so he had his assistant [Clarence] Dally doing all the X-rays and the fluoroscopies, and Dally was dead by 1904. I think he had only been working on it for about seven or eight years and what happens is the doctor's fingers were falling off, they were getting squamous cell carcinoma, and a whole bunch of other carcinomas from exposure to the X-ray.

5. Today's Medical Practices May Look Foolish in 100 Years

Closing out our interview, Dr. Burns gives some perspective on technological advances in medicine.

Dr. Burns: One of the statements I say to everyone I meet, just so you get the correct idea about these doctors, is that these doctors from 1900 and the doctors from 1700 and 1800 are just as smart as you and I, just as innovative, just as genius. The problem is they labored under inferior knowledge in technology and all they tried to do was help and heal. They did the best they could, but the advance of medicine and technology is so great that a hundred years later a lot of the stuff looks foolish and you're wondering why a patient would put up with it. And what we're doing today will be looked at, I'm sure, a hundred years from now the same way.

Read the Rest

We have a full interview with Dr. Burns touching on the medical aspects of his work with The Knick. The show airs Fridays at 10pm on Cinemax.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
College Board Wants to Erase Thousands of Years From AP World History, and Teachers Aren't Happy
iStock
iStock

One would be forgiven for thinking that the Ides of March are upon us, because Julius Caesar is being taken out once again—this time from the Advanced Placement World History exam. The College Board in charge of the AP program is planning to remove the Roman leader, and every other historical figure who lived and died prior to 1450, from high school students’ tests, The New York Times reports.

The nonprofit board recently announced that it would revise the test, beginning in 2019, to make it more manageable for teachers and students alike. The current exam covers over 10,000 years of world history, and according to the board, “no other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year.”

As an alternative, the board suggested that schools offer two separate year-long courses to cover the entirety of world history, including a Pre-AP World History and Geography class focusing on the Ancient Period (before 600 BCE) up through the Postclassical Period (ending around 1450). However, as Politico points out, a pre-course for which the College Board would charge a fee "isn’t likely to be picked up by cash-strapped public schools," and high school students wouldn't be as inclined to take the pre-AP course since there would be no exam or college credit for it.

Many teachers and historians are pushing back against the proposed changes and asking the board to leave the course untouched. Much of the controversy surrounds the 1450 start date and the fact that no pre-colonial history would be tested.

“They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, who previously helped develop AP History exams and courses, told The New York Times. “If you start in 1450, the first thing you’ll talk about in terms of Africa is the slave trade. The first thing you’ll talk about in terms of the Americas is people dying from smallpox and other things. It’s not a start date that encourages looking at the agency and creativity of people outside Europe.”

A group of teachers who attended an AP open forum in Salt Lake City also protested the changes. One Michigan educator, Tyler George, told Politico, “Students need to understand that there was a beautiful, vast, and engaging world before Europeans ‘discovered’ it.”

The board is now reportedly reconsidering its decision and may push the start date of the course back some several hundred years. Their decision will be announced in July.

[h/t The New York Times]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Nate D. Sanders Auctions
Sylvia Plath's Pulitzer Prize in Poetry Is Up for Auction
Nate D. Sanders Auctions
Nate D. Sanders Auctions

A Pulitzer Prize in Poetry that was awarded posthumously to Sylvia Plath in 1982 for her book The Collected Poems will be auctioned on June 28. The Los Angeles-based Nate D. Sanders Auctions says bidding for the literary document will start at $40,000.

The complete book of Plath’s poetry was published in 1981—18 years after her death—and was edited by her husband, fellow poet Ted Hughes. The Pulitzer Prize was presented to Hughes on Plath’s behalf, and one of two telegrams sent by Pulitzer President Michael Sovern to Hughes read, “We’ve just heard that the Collected Plath has won the Pulitzer Prize. Congratulations to you for making it possible.” The telegrams will also be included in the lot, in addition to an official congratulatory letter from Sovern.

The Pultizer’s jury report from 1982 called The Collected Poems an “extraordinary literary event.” It went on to write, “Plath won no major prizes in her lifetime, and most of her work has been posthumously published … The combination of metaphorical brilliance with an effortless formal structure makes this a striking volume.”

Ted Hughes penned an introduction to the poetry collection describing how Plath had “never scrapped any of her poetic efforts,” even if they weren’t all masterpieces. He wrote:

“Her attitude to her verse was artisan-like: if she couldn’t get a table out of the material, she was quite happy to get a chair, or even a toy. The end product for her was not so much a successful poem, as something that had temporarily exhausted her ingenuity. So this book contains not merely what verse she saved, but—after 1956—all she wrote.”

Also up for auction is Plath’s Massachusetts driver’s license from 1958, at which time she went by the name Sylvia P. Hughes. Bidding for the license will begin at $8000.

Plath's driver's license
Nate D. Sanders Auctions

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios