Martin A. Couney

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Martin A. Couney
Born(1860-12-31)December 31, 1860 or (1870-12-30)December 30, 1870
Died(1950-03-01)March 1, 1950
Spouse(s)Annabelle Maye
ChildrenHildegarde Couney, daughter
Medical career
Sub-specialtiesNeonatal incubators
Baby Incubator Exhibit at 1909 Seattle World's Fair

Martin Arthur Couney (1870–March 1, 1950) was a physician and pioneer in neonatology. Couney, born Michael Cohn, was a German-Jewish immigrant whose mother's family had a history of doctors[2][3]. Though he claimed to have been a student of Pierre-Constant Budin, this claim cannot be verified. There is good reason to believe that he was not a trained medical doctor at all.[4] He is best known for helping parents of premature infants by placing them in neonatal incubators when they were not allowed in most hospitals.[5] He operated exhibits of premature infants at the Berlin Exposition of 1896, at Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London, at the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha, Nebraska in 1898, at the World's Fair in Paris in 1900, at the World's Fair in Buffalo, New York in 1901, and most famously, for many years at Coney Island, New York, where he charged 25 cents to view the babies so parents would not have to pay for their children's medical care.[1][6][7] His exhibition at Luna Park opened in 1903.[8] Incubators were included in hospitals shortly before his death in 1950.[5][9] The estimate of prematurely born babies whose lives he saved is between 6,500 and 7,000.[10]

See also[edit]

Additional reading[edit]

  • Raffel, Dawn The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies (New York: Blue Rider Press, 2018)


  1. ^ a b Incubator-baby side shows (Dr. Martin A. Couney).. Pediatrics. 1979 Aug;64(2):127-41. PMID 382078.
  2. ^ "How one man saved a generation of premature babies". BBC News. 2016-05-23. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  3. ^ Raffel, Dawn (2018-07-31). The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies. Penguin. ISBN 9780698404816.
  4. ^ Prentice, Claire. "The Man Who Ran a Carnival Attraction That Saved Thousands of Premature Babies Wasn't a Doctor at All". Smithsonian Magazine. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 26 February 2017.
  5. ^ a b NPR Staff. "Babies On Display: When A Hospital Couldn't Save Them, A Sideshow Did". NPR. Retrieved 2015-07-13.
  6. ^ "Martin A. Couney, 'Incubator Doctor'". New York Times. March 2, 1950. p. 27. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  7. ^ Anderson, Julie; Lienhard, John. "No. 2279: Babies in Sideshows". The Engines of Our Ingenuity. Retrieved 2015-07-13.
  8. ^ And next to the bearded lady, premature babies. The New York Times. 2005 Jun 12 [Retrieved 13 November 2014].
  9. ^ Saatchi, Charles (29 May 2014). "Ten cents to see a premature baby; The Naked Eye; In the latest of his series on striking images, our columnist looks at the science of saving infant human lives and other American fairground attractions". London Evening Standard. London, England. p. 44. Retrieved 12 July 2015 – via Biography in Context.
  10. ^ "To Heaven by Subway (Fortune Classics, 1938)". Fortune. Retrieved 2018-11-23.

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