Martin Couney never held a medical license, but he saved more than 7,000 premature babies over the course of his lifetime — by exhibiting them in incubators at his Coney Island sideshow.
Back in the early 1900s, many eugenicists had popularized the belief that premature babies were destined for death and not worth saving. But Couney challenged that idea with his exhibition, which he created after he saw chicken incubators being used as “child hatcheries” at the Chicago World’s Fair.
He saw firsthand how incubators could bring vulnerable infants back from the brink of death and was eager to replicate that success. And by the time his Coney Island sideshow closed in 1943, nearly every hospital in America had adopted his machines.
I was saved by an incubator after being born almost 7 weeks prematurely in the early 1960s. So I was fascinated to see the photos and learn the fascinating full story here.