Drawing on historical documents, original reportage, and interviews with surviving patients, acclaimed journalist and magazine editor Dawn Raffel tells the marvelously eccentric story of Couney's mysterious carnival career, his larger-than-life personality, and his unprecedented success as the savior of tiny babies.
The positively bizarre history of the neonatal incubator in the U.S. is delightfully investigated in Raffel’s portrait of the enigmatic Dr. Couney ... Raffel’s research is impressive and her use of primary sources throws a great deal of light on how eugenics and a survival-of-the-fittest attitude justified the lax care of premature babies ... Raffel’s account bounces around chronologically, which can be a bit confusing. But her interviews with Couney’s former patients are inspiring and the numerous historic photographs are amazing and complement the story quite effectively. The topic is compelling on many levels, and Raffel’s arresting and illuminating work of hidden history should not be missed.
[The Strange Case of Dr. Couney is] 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 ... The Strange Case of Dr. Couney brings together compelling glimpses of the history around his story: Couney's jostling medical predecessors; the classism and racism behind infant care; the spread of eugenics rhetoric; and the rise of the cheap-thrill spectacle add depth to the broad strokes of global events ... In both its most optimistic and most pessimistic moments, it carries the same wry sense of storytelling ... It's a fascinating historical footnote, compassionately told.
Pulling together documents, photos, and interviews, including some with now-elderly preemies who were among Couney’s incubator babies, Raffel traces the extraordinary life of Michael Cohn ... With colorful descriptions of the carnival world and the medical marvels of early neonatalogy, Raffel makes a fascinating case for this unusual pioneer’s rightful place in medical history.