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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 Audiobook, by David Plotz Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.24 out of 53.24 out of 53.24 out of 53.24 out of 53.24 out of 5 3.24 (33 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: June 2005 ISBN: 9781415926383
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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 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 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 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 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. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katrina Pongco | 1/4/2014

    " This was recommended to me by a college classmate who himself was a gifted child. With that in mind, I read this book with personal interest. First impression: I did not care much for the author's writing style in the first half of the book, which consisted greatly of very short, choppy sentences. The second half was more fluid and natural, probably not coincidental to the fact that the author's investigation began to involve his personal, er, participation. As for the content, my classmate wasn't wrong when he opined how sad it all was, for the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank kids, especially. In the context of societal distrust and displeasure for any whiff of pushiness in parents, it must have been difficult for those kids who "did not live to their genetic potential." My take after reading this book: my line would have been bred out of existence if these eugenicists had their way. I would have been too short, too physically unfit, too brown. And I do agree with the author's main thesis: it's more nurture than nature anyway. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Chalet | 12/25/2013

    " I listened to this on tape (MP3) while on vacation. It was great vacation listening because it was interesting and informative without being too information dense. The book started as a series of articles in Slate, which shows in the breezy, first-person style. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jennifer Cooper | 12/12/2013

    " It was kind of cool to learn about the origins of sperm banks, and this particular sperm bank was weird, and therefore interesting. Unfortunately, this was one of those books that was really interesting for a while, but ended with several chapters of me thinking "OK, I get it already." "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 mLe | 12/4/2013

    " the recipe for genius is elitism. very intriguing reporting on a little-known sperm bank for (supposed) nobel prize winners and the visionary (but paranoid) guy who started it. a good mix of history, personal story telling, and medical procedures (though not too much of the latter). "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jennifer | 12/1/2013

    " This book is a goldmine for weird anecdotes. For instance: before Al Gore took on global warming and invented the internet, he was responsible for regulating the sperm bank industry. Fine work as always Al. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Joy | 11/20/2013

    " This is an excellent example of how I will try reading almost anything if the writing is sufficiently engaging. The book itself is only a moderately interesting look at eugenics and parenting, but I did finish it (skimming some bits) with an interest in trying more of Plotz's writing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amy | 11/18/2013

    " interesting take on nurture v nature, as well as a compelling take on a subject you likely know little about and didn't realize was so interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cody | 11/17/2013

    " Faqscinating history of what may have been one of the biggest scams in history! I would suggest anyone that reads it will like it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Morgan | 11/15/2013

    " Good nonfiction book about the sunnier side of ethnic cleansing and genetic prejudice. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sarah | 11/11/2013

    " Interesting - about the Nobel Prize sperm bank, and the donors, recipients, and kids involved with it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Heidi | 9/23/2013

    " While I was interested in the premise, I didn't find this a very enjoyable book to read. Slow pacing, and the stories of some of the donors and offspring were not written in a very interesting way. I struggled to care enough to finish it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Shylo | 4/24/2013

    " This was a thought-provoking book about the business and ethics of fertility, but I wished it had included foot or end notes for further investigation. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Debbie Petersen | 2/28/2013

    " I can't believe that such a place ever existed. Very interesting to follow up on what happened to some of the children born of this bizarre experiment. (Hint: not a genius among them.) "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mandi Lee | 2/9/2013

    " poorly written, interesting story/history. Content of book is slightly suggestive. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Caroline | 1/20/2013

    " Has it all - psychology, science, emotion. But I think it would've been better as a long article. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Erin | 12/28/2012

    " It's a fun, interesting read. It's a journalist writing it so I'm sure it's sensationalized a bit more, but most "based on a true story" books are. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Natalie | 12/7/2012

    " Interesting book, I started off fascinated by this idea and bemused by reality of the situation. Toward the end, it did seem to drag a bit and I found myself saying "okay, okay, I got it already." Not a bad book by any means, but also not a tremendous number of surprises after the first half. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Eliza | 12/4/2012

    " Fascinating and surprisingly emotional. Well worth reading (or listening to, as I did). "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jose | 11/20/2012

    " fascinating. great audio book. abridged, but in this case i think that's okay. incredible these eugenicists.... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Henri | 10/20/2012

    " Very interesting read from the standpoint of all sorts of academic disciplines, but very hard to get through at times. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Chris | 5/27/2012

    " A good summary of a weird social experiment. Not as interesting as I was hoping., but still fairly interesting. Gets repetive towards the end. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tamara | 4/22/2012

    " Read for book group. The first 2 chapters were really dry. After that, it got more interesting. It wasn't what I thought it was going to be, but it also gave me a lot to think about. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Roxanne | 11/6/2011

    " The author does a good job of not only describing this venture but also of raising issues of morality and ethics related to it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Roseann | 6/26/2011

    " While it might offend some as it takes a very non-secular view of the bible, I found it hilarious! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mindy | 12/26/2010

    " Mostly funny, occasionally insightful. Recommended for nonbelievers (or those undecided) who want to know more about the Bible without having to read it. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kelly | 11/3/2010

    " Tried to read this and just couldnt get into it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Steven | 9/15/2010

    " I didn't actually read all of it, finding it more of a reference book than anything. But it is a creative idea, and the parts I read were humorous. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jeff | 7/9/2010

    " Think of it as an annotated Old Testament by someone who had previously never paid much attention to the Bible. It had its moments, but it was otherwise somewhat lacking. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Krista | 6/22/2010

    " good fresh perspective on the Hebrew bible - I don't always agree with it - but awesome read! "

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About the Narrator

Stefan Rudnicki first became involved with audiobooks in 1994. Now a Grammy-winning audiobook producer, he has worked on more than three thousand audiobooks as a narrator, writer, producer, or director. He has narrated more than three hundred audiobooks. A recipient of multiple AudioFile Earphones Awards, he was presented the coveted Audie Award for solo narration in 2005, 2007, and 2014 and was named one of AudioFile’s Golden Voices in 2012.