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The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies by Dawn Raffel

Read by Erin Bennett, with the recording produced by Penguin Audio

Reviewed by Ryan Paul Winn

American pediatrics owes a debt to Martin Couney for the impact on the specialty of his all but forgotten sideshows. In the early 20th century, Couney’s incubators, each sustaining a premature infant, amazed anguished parents and thrilled gawkers. Physicians dismissed Couney’s machines and methods as the stuff of carnival freakdom. However, the sensationalism rested in real miracles, as Raffel recounts. Erin Bennett conveys both Couney’s compassion for his patients and Raffel’s persistence in unraveling his enigmatic legacy.



Ryan Paul Winn is a columnist and media critic who’s rarely without an audiobook or his earbuds. When not writing or teaching in the Liberal Studies department at College of Menominee Nation in Keshena, Wisconsin, he can be found researching overlooked history in local and national archives.