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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: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2005 ISBN: 9780739320716
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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

  • 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. Atul Gawande, author of Complications
  • If it weren’t so disturbingly true, The Genius Factory would be a gripping work of science fiction. David Plotz’s terrific reporting uncovers one man’s quest to ‘improve’ the species and its complex, touching, troubling, very human repercussions. Stefan Fatsis, author of Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players

  • Advance praise The Genius Factory
  • 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, author of The Tipping Point
  • 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, author of Stiff

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Eliza | 2/19/2014

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

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Natalie | 2/17/2014

    " 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. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nita | 2/8/2014

    " I remember when the sperm bank opened. This was an interesting update. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Debrarian | 2/7/2014

    " Interesting history of sperm banks in general. Also follows the particular stories of a few mothers and children turned up through his articles in Slate. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amy | 2/3/2014

    " 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 Kris | 2/3/2014

    " Human-interest stuff about a sperm bank supposedly based around Nobel-prize winning sperm. The author manages to link up a few donor/offspring pairs, despite the anonymity of the bank. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kerry | 1/31/2014

    " interesting read. never knew anything about eugenics until this book, can't believe the things we've done to each other. strange off topic book. I like it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bla | 1/23/2014

    " Fun read but an unsettling idea. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jane | 1/20/2014

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

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Shylo | 1/14/2014

    " 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 Mary Ellen | 12/29/2013

    " This was pretty interesting! Now I know where I came from! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 MikeFromQueens | 12/27/2013

    " Kind of interesting in that I was new to this subject. Probably not the best way to learn about an actual "nature versus nurture" research project, though that wasn't the purpose of the sperm bank, but it fed some of my suspicions. I found it interesting in a weird kind-of way. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tamara | 12/18/2013

    " 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. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tammy Due | 12/16/2013

    " What a strange concept! It as interesting book in regards to the idea that some people want to choose characteristics of their babies based on "intelligence". I am glad that this project did not fully succeed...where has humanity gone when we choose our loved ones in this fashion? "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Susanna | 12/15/2013

    " A true eye-opener. An expose of the mysterious "Nobel Prize Sperm Bank." David Plotz's first book is a "God-sent"! Really looking forward to his second book this coming year! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sarah | 6/19/2013

    " I think I read half of this book out loud to my roommate because it was SO INTERESTING I couldn't help but share. Lots of anecdotes about deeply crazy people, plus food for thought about why people have kids, what is intelligence, what is success, etc. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Page | 1/13/2013

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

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mandi Lee | 11/14/2012

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

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Paige | 3/3/2012

    " This is a history of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank. While interesting, its too much historical reporting and not enough story about the people interviewed. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Joy | 1/29/2012

    " 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. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Heidi | 1/5/2012

    " 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. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cody | 12/31/2011

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

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cindy Lasher | 11/20/2011

    " It's fascinating reading about a subject I always thought to be an urban legend--the Noble Prize winner sperm bank. It follows the investigation into where the chidren are now, who the parents where, and how this affected all of their lives. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Chalet | 7/29/2011

    " 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 Chris | 5/5/2011

    " 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 Page | 3/14/2011

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

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Eliza | 3/6/2011

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

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kerry | 1/11/2011

    " interesting read. never knew anything about eugenics until this book, can't believe the things we've done to each other. strange off topic book. I like it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jose | 7/12/2010

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

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sarah | 5/18/2010

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

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Christina | 4/26/2010

    " Did a sperm bank, hawking Nobel Laureate genes in the 80s and 90s, succeed in reversing the retrograde evolution of mankind? No it didn't and shame on it's founders for their racism and bad science. Disgraceful. Pacing of this book is a bit slow. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 MikeFromQueens | 4/7/2010

    " Kind of interesting in that I was new to this subject. Probably not the best way to learn about an actual "nature versus nurture" research project, though that wasn't the purpose of the sperm bank, but it fed some of my suspicions. I found it interesting in a weird kind-of way. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Michelle | 12/10/2009

    " Read for book group and found it fairly interesting. There were definitely things I learned from this book and I found myself wanting to see what happened to the "genius kids". In the end, I was glad I had read it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tamara | 12/9/2009

    " 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. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tammy | 10/7/2009

    " What a strange concept! It as interesting book in regards to the idea that some people want to choose characteristics of their babies based on "intelligence". I am glad that this project did not fully succeed...where has humanity gone when we choose our loved ones in this fashion? "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nita | 8/31/2009

    " I remember when the sperm bank opened. This was an interesting update. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cody | 7/22/2009

    " 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 Samara | 5/28/2009

    " A fascinating investigation of "neo-eugenics" in America. "

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