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The Strange Case of Dr. Couney : How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies.
2018
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Summary
The extraordinary tale of how a mysterious immigrant "doctor" became the revolutionary innovator of saving premature babies--by placing them in incubators in World's Fair side shows and on Coney Island and Atlantic City. <br> <br> What kind of doctor puts his patients on display?<br> <br> As Dawn Raffel artfully recounts, Dr. Couney figured out he could use incubators and careful nursing to keep previously doomed infants alive, and at the same time make good money displaying these babies alongside sword swallowers, bearded ladies, and burlesque shows. How this turn-of-the-twentieth-century émigré became the savior to families with premature infants, known then as "weaklings"--while ignoring the scorn of the medical establishment and fighting the climate of eugenics--is one of the most astounding stories of modern medicine. And as readers will find, Dr. Couney, for all his opportunistic entrepreneurial gusto, is a surprisingly appealing character, someone who genuinely cared for the well-being of his tiny patients. But he had something to hide.<br> <br> Drawing on historical documents, original reportage, and interviews with surviving patients, acclaimed journalist and magazine editor Dawn Raffel tells the marvelously eccentric story of Couney's mysterious carnival career, his larger-than-life personality, and his unprecedented success as the savior of tiny babies.
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  School Library Journal Review

At the turn of the 20th century, there was no better place to see the astonishing changes around the globe than at grand expositions and fairs. In the United States, Coney Island provided a venue for showmen to present peeks into the future by revealing new gadgets, offering thrilling rides, and hawking sideshow oddity exhibits. Among these men was Dr. Martin Couney. Couney wasn't actually a doctor, but his idea of putting premature babies on display, snug in newly invented incubators, and charging viewers (but not the infants' parents) a small entry fee, saved lives-and made him rich. His success rate? Greater than 80 percent at a time when hospitals were sending similar three-pound newborns home to die. His genius was in recognizing the benefits of the incubator, perfecting how it worked, and, with his staff, creating methods for keeping the babies warm, fed, and loved. Never accepted by the medical establishment, Couney nevertheless continued to refine his process and save thousands of children. Presented in clustered tidbits, the narrative moves back and forth through time. While this meticulously researched work assumes knowledge of 20th-century history and personalities, such as the Dionne quintuplets, attentive readers will find a fascinating story set within the extraordinary richness of a burgeoning progressive era. VERDICT A -solid addition for sophisticated teens.--Connie Williams, Petaluma Public Library, CA © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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