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The Strange Case of Dr. Couney  is 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.

 

Was Martin Couney a showman with an interest in medicine, or a doctor with an interest in showmanship? Or even a doctor? In Dawn Raffel's exceptional history, what matters most is that Couney figured out he could use incubators and careful nursing to keep previously doomed tiny infants alive--and at the same time make a lot of coin by displaying these babies alongside sword swallowers and bearded ladies on the midway. How this turn of the 20th century émigré became the savior of families with premature infants, known then as "weaklings" -- while ignoring the scorn of the medical establishment -- is one of the most astounding, unlikely and ultimately life-changing stories of modern medicine.

 

Drawing on newly discovered documents, obscure contemporary reports and interviews with some of the (now) elderly surviving infants, Raffel, an acclaimed journalist and magazine editor, explores Couney's mysterious carnival career, his larger-than-life personality and his almost unfathomable success as a baby saver -- all in the context of miracles occurring in the most unlikely ways. Couney gave the masses entertainment and the families of preemie infants hope.