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Download The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank, by David Plotz Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (477 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: David Plotz Narrator: Stefan Rudnicki Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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It was the most radical human-breeding experiment in American history, and no one knew how it turned out. The Repository for Germinal Choice—nicknamed the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank—opened to notorious fanfare in 1980, and for two decades, women flocked to it from all over the country to choose a sperm donor from its roster of Nobel-laureate scientists, mathematical prodigies, successful businessmen, and star athletes. But the bank quietly closed its doors in 1999, its founder dead, its confidential records sealed, and the fate of its children and donors unknown. In early 2001, award-winning columnist David Plotz set out to solve the mystery of the Nobel Prize sperm bank.

Plotz wrote an article for Slate inviting readers to contact him—confidentially—if they knew anything about the bank. The next morning, he received an email response, then another, and another—each person desperate to talk about something they had kept hidden for years. Now, in The Genius Factory, Plotz unfolds the full and astonishing story of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank and its founder’s radical scheme to change our world.

Believing America was facing genetic catastrophe, Robert Graham, an eccentric millionaire, decided he could reverse the decline by artificially inseminating women with the sperm of geniuses. In February 1980, Graham opened the Repository for Germinal Choice and stocked it with the seed of gifted scientists, inventors, and thinkers. Over the next nineteen years, Graham’s “genius factory” produced more than two hundred children.

What happened to them? Were they the brilliant offspring that Graham expected? Did any of the “superman” fathers care about the unknown sons and daughters who bore their genes? What were the mothers like? 

Crisscrossing the country and logging countless hours online, Plotz succeeded in tracking down previously unknown family members—teenage half-brothers who ended up following vastly different paths, mothers who had wondered for years about the identities of the donors they had selected on the basis of code names and brief character profiles, fathers who were proud or ashamed or simply curious about the children who had been created from their sperm samples. 

The children of the “genius factory” are messengers from the future—a future that is bearing down on us fast. What will families be like when parents routinely “shop” for their kids’ genes? What will children be like when they’re programmed for greatness? In this stunning, eye-opening book, one of our finest young journalists previews America’s coming age of genetic expectations.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “The Genius Factory is a riveting account of a truly bizarre episode in American history—Robert Graham’s crusade to save the human race. David Plotz has written a superb book about the quest for genius, and, ultimately, family.”

    Malcolm Gladwell, New York Times bestselling author

  • “I want to start a terrific writers sperm bank, and the first seed I want in the inventory is David Plotz’s. Plotz has it all. He’s an incredible, unstoppable reporter—unrelenting yet always fair and compassionate—and a deft, witty writer. Plotz’s account of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank is an absorbing, surprising, deeply human tale of deceit and megalomania, of hopes and dreams and eugenics gone wild.”

    Mary Roach, New York Times bestselling author

  • “One part detective story, one part cultural snapshot, and one part just plain weird, the tale of California’s infamous Nobel Prize Sperm Bank is unexpectedly enthralling. David Plotz gives us the science, the business, the ambitions, and most especially the people: from founders to donors to mothers and children. A marvelous and thoroughly engaging read.”

  • “Graham’s experiment…made for a heck of a story. And in Plotz’s capable hands, it also makes for a heck of a book.”

    Amazon.com, editorial review

  • “The attempt to breed genius babies may have an aura of surreal humor, but the sensitive narration always reminds us of the real lives affected—and created—through this oddball utopian scheme.”

    Publishers Weekly

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Page | 2/19/2014

    " I got bogged down during some parts but thought the parts about the children searching for their donor fathers interesting. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Liz | 2/17/2014

    " I listened to the unabridged CD version. Enjoyed how the narrative moved back and forth between the notion that nature drives us and the notion that nurture drives us. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Jane | 2/13/2014

    " An really interesting, quick read. Not worth buying but a good read nonetheless. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Deborah Joyner | 1/21/2014

    " Browsing Stanford's student bookstore, I came across this title: a curious blend of history and detective reporting and, and knew I had to read it. If you can't wait to find the book, large portions of it began as a series of articles in the internet magazine, Slate, and can be read online. Plotz's interest in the "Noble Sperm Bank" or more exactly the Repository for Germinal Choice, led to an article that encouraged people involved in the project, donors - mothers - children, to contact him. The book is best when it focuses in on the families, but Plotz also convincingly sketches out the figures who inspired it, made it work, and who changed the nature of the artificial insemination and the role of the sperm bank forever. The moral issues are seen from various points of view as well as the real life difficulties the families have encountered. Most of the women willing to contact Plotz were divorced, some donor information was found to be fraudulent, and some children found the "genius genes" to be as much of a burden as a blessing. The warning buyer beware hangs over the entire issue, children are not products and anonymous donors are not parental figures, yet families survive and even thrive. A fascinating read. "

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