Lucille Conlin Horn weighed barely two pounds when she was born prematurely, a perilous size for any infant, especially in 1920. Doctors told her parents to hold off on a funeral for her twin sister who had died at birth, expecting Horn too would soon be gone. But her life spanned nearly a century after her parents put their faith in a sideshow doctor at Coney Island who put babies on display in incubators to fund his research to keep them alive. Horn died Feb. 11 in New York at age 96, the AP reports. She had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Horn was among thousands of premature babies who were treated in the early 20th century by Dr. Martin Couney. He was a pioneer in the use of incubators who sought acceptance for the technology by showing it off on carnival midways and fairs. He never accepted money from the babies' parents, but instead charged oglers admission to see the tiny infants struggling for life. Couney, who is viewed today as a pioneer in neonatology, estimated that he successfully kept alive about 7,500 of the 8,500 children that were taken to his "baby farm" at the Coney Island boardwalk. There is no estimate on how many are still alive today. Horn worked as a crossing guard and then as a legal secretary for her husband. She said she met Couney when she was about 19 and thanked him for what he had done. "I've had a good life," she said in 2015. (Read more incubator stories.)