Fake doctor saved thousands of infants and changed medical history

I am starting a series of interesting reads on this blog. This series will have snippets from the main article. It is to highlight the inherent curiosity and introduce readers to a wide variety of “neural simulation”.

¡Incubators were invented in Europe in the late 19th century, the evolution of innovations from Russia, Germany and France. Couney claimed that in 1896, Budin, an actual pioneer in the field, sent him to display incubators at the Great Industrial Exhibition of Berlin. Rather than stand next to empty machines, Couney, referring to the displays as “child hatchery,” said he realized how much more effective it would be if they housed actual babies being saved for the public to see.

The truth about where Couney first encountered these machines, and his motivation for making them the great cause of his life, is unknown. Raffel believes he did not attend the 1896 exhibition at all, but heard about it, and became associated with the machines soon after

But for all his showbiz, Couney was in the lifesaving business, and he took it seriously. The exhibit was immaculate. When new children arrived, dropped off by panicked parents who knew Couney could help them where hospitals could not, they were immediately bathed, rubbed with alcohol and swaddled tight, then “placed in an incubator kept at 96 or so degrees, depending on the patient. Every two hours, those who could suckle were carried upstairs on a tiny elevator and fed by breast by wet nurses who lived in the building. The rest [were fed by] a funneled spoon.”

Even the nurses — whose genuine medical degrees helped make up for the absence of Couney’s in instances such as signing death certificates — understood that maintaining the show business of it all was key to keeping the operation alive. They would often feed or bathe the babies where people could watch, and one nurse would “flash a diamond ring and slip it over an infant’s wrist, all the way up its skinny arm, to demonstrate scale.”


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