Martin Cooney's Invention of the Incubator

In 1896, inventor Martin Cooney designed the incubator, a device veloped to aid premature babies. Cooney was the first to advocate separation of infants from their mothers as a medical procedure for the health of the child. In a bizarre combination of medicine and sideshow. Cooney gathered hundreds of premature babies (they were easy to obtain because doctors assumed premature infants would die), put them into incubators, and exhibited them at various expositions and fairs in Amer¬ ica and Europe."*^ Babies were returned when they reached five pounds. But until then, their mothers were kept away. (Cooney would not allow mothers to visit with their infants, but did give them free passes to the exposition.) A photograph of Cooney's exhibit in San Francisco in 1915 shows a brick building with the tide "Infant Incubators with Living Infants" emblazoned across the facade. Inside the exhibit were rows of tiny metal cabinets looking like microwave ovens with wrapped babies inside. It looks modern for the times, hygienic and sterile, but the mothers are nowhere in sight.

Once settled on Coney Island, Cooney saved more than five thousand premature infants over the next few decades; and to offset the cost of their care, he continued to exhibit the babies up through the 1940s New York World's Fair. Cooney's technique was so successful that it was widely adapted by hospitals across the nation when they built premature infant wards. More broadly, it became standard practice even for normal babies—^it was considered healthier for even these babies to be taken away and placed in incubators where they would be observed by nurses, rather than to be left with their mothers.


He displayed the premature babies in a sideshow to prove its effectiveness in keeping them alive, but also kicked off the practice of separating Mothers from babies at birth.

Folksonomies: history pregnancy medical history infants

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Childbirth (0.948243): dbpedia | freebase
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 Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Small , Meredith (1999-05-04), Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent, Anchor, Retrieved on 2011-06-29
Folksonomies: parenting pregnancy babies infancy parenthood