The Strange Case of Dr. Couney by Dawn Raffel

The Strange Case of Dr. Couney

"A mosaic mystery told in vignettes, cliffhangers, curious asides, and some surreal plot twists as Raffel investigates the secrets of the man who changed infant care in America.... It's a fascinating historical footnote, compassionately told." --NPR, 2018's Great Reads A New York Times Book Review New & Noteworthy TitleA Real Simple Best Book of 2018What kind of doctor puts his patients on display?This is the spellbinding tale of a mysterious doc...

Details The Strange Case of Dr. Couney

TitleThe Strange Case of Dr. Couney
Release DateJul 31st, 2018
PublisherBlue Rider Press
GenreNonfiction, History, Science, Historical, Medical

Reviews The Strange Case of Dr. Couney

  • Diane S ☔
    What an unbelievable story. Babies in incubators as a side show at various world fairs, as well as Coney Island and Atlantic City. A time when infants born too soon and a medical establishment that had no way to keep them alive.Enter, this amazing man from Europe, a showman but a deeply caring man, a man who took the smallest of preemies and placed them in incubators. Stressing cleanliness, breast milk, holding and loving, and in the process save...
  • Melissa
    It was a fascinating story but it felt like a million little ends that never came together to make a cohesive story. I learned a few superfluous things about Dr.Couny but never really found out anything. I would get engrossed in a story, only to have it end abruptly leaving me questioning "was that it?" It left me wanting so much more information that I never got.
  • Tara
    Raffel has written a ground-breaking study that is both engaging and fascinating. A look into the life of Dr. "Couney," the unlikely forefather of neonatal care for premature babies. What might be dull in the hands of others reads like a good mystery with Raffel as the detective. It unfolds in layers of carnival happenings and scandals, subterfuge, WW II fallout, antisemitism, and brings to light a period in American history I knew nothing about-...
  • Stephanie Borders
    Martin Couney was not a person I was familiar with prior to reading this book. In fact, I had given little thought to the existence of incubators and their use for premature babies, but the blurb of this book fascinated me. The idea of incubators being part of a side show at Coney Island and the like was almost unbelievable. As I read more, my fascination grew deeper and deeper. The idea that doctors at hospitals would recommend new parents takin...
  • Pamela
    Interesting, most definitely. Babies in incubators as menageries on display at Coney Island; Dr. Couney saving sickly and/or preemie infants in public view in deference to the medical community's scorn and disinterest in his invention. Well written and cohesively constructed/plotted, however . . . not really. Too much, unnecessary toggling back and forth n time and place. Plus a good bit of filler makes it excessively lengthy.Three *** Fascinatin...
  • Jennifer Haupt
    This is a fascinating true story that drew me into another time period, with interesting characters and a twisty plot that reads in parts like a mystery novel. Dr. Martin Couney saved hundreds of premature babies, caring for them in incubators at a Coney Island side show, the Chicago World’s Fair, and other atmospheric venues. I was shocked to learn that hospitals wrote these babies off as “weaklings” and couldn’t (or wouldn’t) care for...
  • Christine
    What a fascinating part of history. I found this to be a compelling read and something I found myself thinking about well after finishing the book. The book was a bit choppy but it kept my interest and is a quick read. 4.5 stars
  • Katie
    Because of my many years of work at the Coney Island museum, I knew more than most about this weird little piece of history. Most people, when told about it get upset about the idea of babies on display as a sideshow attraction, but they always calm down when explain that Martin Couney managed to save the unsaveable - in enormous numbers, and was resourceful enough to be able to have it be self-funding and extremely effective. Dawn Raffel's enjoy...
  • Daisy Hickman
    Anxiously awaiting the July 31st release of Dawn Raffel's new book! From her prior work, I'm certain it will be extremely well written and intriguing. The title and cover are exceptional.
  • Kate
    I picked this up to read for a pop-up book group in NYC sponsored by Book the Writer. As a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, I was very interested in the story of how the littlest babies were saved around the turn of the 20th Century. I had heard of the side shows where babies were exhibited in incubators, but I did not know the story of how they came to be. Dawn Raffel's story of Dr. Couney's life is briskly paced and tells the story of an immigrant ...
  • Linden
    Dr. Martin Couney, who apparently had not received any official medical training, ran his incubators for premature babies as a side show at several fairs across the country, including Coney Island. His wife Maye and another trained nurse, Louise, helped to care for the infants, whom the hospitals had either given up on or were unable to accommodate. He claimed the survival rate of these preemies was 85%, far exceeding that of the hospitals of the...
  • Sabeeha Rehman
    What an amazing story! Dr. Couney took it upon himself to create an incubator, when the medical establishment had not caught up to it, and take in babies, saving thousands of lives. Dawn tracks his history, goes through archives looking for the places and the babies, and finds them, now in their nineties. An remarkable life, and a remarkable discovery. Read this book and be in awe.
  • Kim
    Fascinating read!
  • Jim
    You **really** need to read "The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies" by Dawn Raffel. This guy came up with techniques and tools to save "underdeveloped" and "weakling" babies, who were frequently simply allowed to die because the doctors didn't believe they could be saved. While he had the self-given title of "Dr." there's no evidence that he ever attended medical school anywhere. He c...
  • Kristi Thielen
    Dawn Raffel’s nifty book is a look at a really unsung hero of the 20th century: Martin Couny. The good doctor (although he didn’t actually have a medical degree) was part showman, part entrepreneur and something of a flim-flam man at the outer edges. But within, he was a good-hearted visionary who saw how incubators could be the salvation of premature infants. He didn’t invent the incubator – and how it came to be and was refined is a con...
  • Art
    This is the amazing true story of a freak show showman who displayed premature babies in incubators, saving nearly 7,000 and contributing greatly to the creation of neonatology medicine.Dr. Couney (not a real doctor and not his real name) displayed babies in incubators at world's fairs and on the boardwalk of Coney Island and Atlantic City.He gave them advanced nursing care, developed feeding methods and techniques that would later be used in hos...
  • Elizabeth Mabrey
    This is a fascinating subject, but I'm left with the impression that the author is still trying to get a handle on the doctor. Some of that is understandable, as there seemed to be a lot of conflicting documentation, some of it provided by Couney. He gave multiple names, multiple countries of origin, etc., which doesn't surprise me as a showman. Still, he seems hard to pin down, and I still don't think we knew much about him. There was no doubt h...
  • Leann Mary
    Do you need to restore your faith in humanity? Do you have any idea how the medical community began using incubators and saving preemies? I picked this book up on a whim in Coney Island having some vague notion from the Sawbones podcast or Stuff You Missed in History podcast that they had babies in incubators at a World’s Fair. I had no idea how captivating the story actually was. For the first half of the 20th Century, while the medical establ...
  • Jacqueline
    The subject of this book is fascinating. I can’t believe incubators for premature babies started as a carnival sideshow. Before it was accepted medical practice, Dr. Martin Couney and his nurses looked after babies doctors thought would surely die. They charged the parents nothing, and instead charged admission at Coney Island and various World’s Fairs for people to see these tiny infants. The babies survived (the book estimates almost 7,000 ...
  • Jen
    I was fascinated with the idea of this story. Dr. Couney was known for using incubators at the Coney Island circus exhibits and at the World's Fair. Instead of practicing in a hospital, Martin Couney worked with a team of nurses and assistants amidst rides, attractions and oddities at the fair. It is estimated that he, along with his team, saved around 7,000 premature babies from using incubators. FASCINATING! However, I didn't find the story tel...
  • Val
    I gave up. The writer apparently had no interest in sticking to the thread of the story. In fact I'm not sure there was one. We start in 1919 and then bounce all over the place, from as far back as 1868 until almost the present. But in between we visit 1934, 1903, 1888, 1925, and probably more, in no particular order, without the slightest attempt to tell an even remotely linear story. And little (if any) effort is made to explain what the connec...
  • alphonse p guardino
    I picked this book up on sort of on whim while browsing a local branch of a well known national bookstore. It then sat in my “too be read” pile for a couple of months. I’m glad that I had not read any of the online reviews first… they might have scared me away! Is the book well written? Not really. In many ways it comes across as disorganized. Did that make it difficult to read? Not really. I still enjoyed the book. The book is not a hist...
  • Holly
    The idea behind this book is fascinating...the man who basically put into use what was the first workable pediatric incubators but that they were showcased at Coney Island rather than a hospital. An interesting man behind it all, "Dr. Couney" as he was known for a while, was a showman not a doctor. His story is not well documented and this book suffers for it. Admittedly, there appears to be little in terms of records or documentation about his e...
  • Madalene
    As others have said, it's clear that there IS an interesting story here - treating preemies in incubators in a very clean environment with frequent nurse care works; even if it took a long time for U.S. hospitals to get it and bizarrely, it worked well as a sideshow for 25 cents a view! But the story is chopped up into various parts and timelines, as if the author felt guilt about not including each side story shared during her research, or wante...
  • Christina
    This book jumped around history a lot, and was a bit confusing at first. I can't help but think that this would have been a better book if the author had actually found more than a handful of firsthand witnesses to interview. Basically, this book highlights how premature infants were treated prior to the 1940s, and how Dr. Couney saved many of their lives by using incubators at large city fairs, funding his operations by charging admission to cur...
  • Sheri S.
    It was interesting to learn about Dr. Couney and how he popularized incubators to save premature babies. One would have thought hospitals might have introduced the use of incubators to American, but instead it was Dr. Couney at a World Fair sideshow (and similar venues) who used the devices to save the very tiny human beings. Some babies weighed little more than a pound and a half and had to be fed through dripping a minuscule amount of milk into...
  • Jean Mehochko
    I enjoyed this book. My favorite combination: history and some mystery. The author did a lot of research to find information about Martin Couney and his incubator babies. The information is presented in an interesting way, with some photos. Turns out, Couney saved thousands of premature infants' lives and was a pioneer in the use of infant incubators; however, during his lifetime, neither he nor the incubators received much respect from the medic...
  • Linda
    I learned about this book from a recent article in the Chicago Tribune about preemies who had been saved by the mysterious Dr. Couney. The author includes a vast amount of information based on her research, and while this true story reads like a novel, the flow of the story is often difficult to follow.The bottom line for me is that this man saved hundreds of premature/underweight babies at a time when most doctors were letting similar babies die...
  • Robin
    I enjoy reading books about off the wall topics and this one fit! I had heard about the incubator babies previously but never knew all of the details. Well, now I know! This book was an easy read which was easily read in one night. It gave in-depth information on Dr. Couney but I was left with so many questions! I don't fault the author for this as I think he presented all the details he could, it is just that Couney is such an enigma. It angered...
  • Christie
    While the subject matter was interesting and illuminated something I knew nothing about, the way the book was written was too disjointed for me. The Dr. Couney's story was interspersed with the author's own story of how she came to learn more about him. But it never feels like everything fits together into a cohesive whole. This book also read at times like the author was trying to fit in every odd and end she learned about Dr. Couney or his pati...