‘The Knick’: 5 Historical Facts To Know About Soderbergh’s Drama Before Season 2 Premiere
"The Knick" is Steven Soderbergh's historical drama surrounding the medicinal field at the turn of the 20th century. Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) is the ringleader of the Knick (short for Knickerbocker Hospital) as the pioneer drug addicted surgeon who is attempting to "make history" with his ingenious medical techniques.
Some of "The Knick's" history is exaggerated but a good deal of the show is based on factual information surrounding the medicinal practices and social climate of the time. Show writers Michael Begler and Jack Amiel even hired NYU Medical Center medical-history archivist, Dr. Stanley Burns, to read the scripts and oversee the scenes to check for accuracy, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Check out five true "The Knick" facts below. Warning: spoilers ahead.
5. Thackery Based On Real Person
Begler and Amiel based Thackery on Dr. William Halsted, Slate reports. Halsted performed the first emergency blood transfusion in the United States. In the final episode, "Crutchfield," a crazed Thackery, bent on discovering the different blood types unsuccessfully executed a blood transfusion which led to the death of a young girl.
Halstead was one of the founders of John Hopkins. Halstead, like Thackery was also addicted to cocaine.
4. Using Heroin to Combat Cocaine Withdrawal
In the season one finale Thackery was admitted to a rehabilitation center for his cocaine addiction. The season ends with the doctor injecting Thackery with heroin to relieve him of withdrawal pain. It seems that in season two Thackery will be battling with both vices.
Halstead was treated for his cocaine addiction with morphine. His treatment was unsuccessful. He found himself "in the grips of a double-barreled addiction," according to The New York Times.
The doctor giving the heroin to Thackery also mentioned that it was produced by Bayer. This is also true. Bayer started offering heroin commercially in 1898, reports Wired.
3. Typhoid Mary
In the first season a bunch of upper-class families began to come down with Typhoid Fever. This is a disease that favors poor living conditions so it was puzzling to the city health inspector and Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance) as to why this disease would be affecting the wealthy NY families. They eventually tracked it down to a cook, Mary Mallon, who had worked in every one of the wealthy households.
Mary Mallon was a real woman and she was called Typhoid Mary. She was found to have infected 53 people with Typhoid in 1908, all while being asymptomatic.
2. Syphilis Nose Reconstruction Surgery
In the episode "The Busy Flea" an old girlfriend of Thackery's, Abby Alford, is introduced as a woman with a tragic history. She had only been with two men in her life, Thackery, and her husband. However, the husband had been having an affair with a woman infected with Syphilis, and Abby had contracted it.
Tertiary Syphilis can lead to a condition called "saddle nose." This is when the bridge of the nose rots and caves into the face. The surrounding skin also then rots and the sufferer is left with a gaping hole in their face. This is what happened to Abby.
She went to Thackery asking him to perform surgery. He reluctantly accepted. The procedure he performed cut a piece of skin away from her forearm (while still attached to the arm) and attached it to her nose as a skin graft. Her arm was then tied tightly into place over her head. She would have to stay like that for several months as the grafted skin covered up the hole on her nose.
This was an actual procedure for "saddle nose." It was developed by Gaspare Tagliacozzi in the 16th century, reports Viral Nova. The technique did little in terms of reconstruction, merely a flap of skin would cover the hole.
1. Pulling Teeth to Cure Insanity
Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) is perhaps one of the most tragic characters on "The Knick." He inadvertently brought meningitis into the home leading to the death of his daughter. His wife than became completely manic. She refused to believe their daughter was dead. In an attempt to help his wife, Gallinger adopted an orphaned baby. His wife, fearing the infant was suffering from meningitis fever, drowned her in an ice bath. Gallinger then had her committed.
In the final episode he goes to visit his wife in the psychiatric ward and becomes furious when he sees that all her teeth were removed. The doctor said that "all mental disorders stem from disease and infection polluting the brain" and that teeth are the main source of infection.
This was based on the practices of Dr. Henry Cotton in the early 1900s. Cotton had believed in this practice so much that he even removed the teeth of his children, reports Wired.
Season two of "The Knick" will return Oct. 16.
Check out the season two trailer below!