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.
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.
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?
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. Download and start listening now!