The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank
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Yes, Hartsoeker peered through the microscope ...more
In 1980, Robert K. Graham, a multi-millionaire who made his fortune inventing shatterproof plastic eyeglass lenses, dreamed of a race of super geniuses; the sperm of Nobel prize winners + the eggs of Mensa women = an improved human race. And voila, the Repository fo ...more
Millionaire Robert Graham’s Repository for Germinal Choice (1980-1999) sperm bank was founded as a form of positive eugenics in order to encourage sperm donation by gifted men (initially Nobelists) for use in the nascent field of artificial insemination. Launched to instant infamy, it turned out to have actually struck a major chord among women seeking sperm, who were generally treated extremely shabbily by the medical establishment which when doing as it pleased, casually chose donors largely a...more
The bank, which started as a very thinly-veiled eugenics project, only used white sperm to inseminate heterosexual, married white women. The book goes into the history of eugenics, the weird people who made the bank a reality, and the stark contrast between the initial plans and the disappointing reality.
The author met a lot of the donors as well as the "genius babies," their mothers, and their families. In ...more
And then there is the philosophical, human stories that are really the base of the book. How do our genes ...more
I'm honestly not sure why I read the whole thing - this is usually a topic I would devote a piece of journalism to perhaps but not a whole book. In fact, it did start as a series of articles by Plotz on Slate (he later went on to be the editor of the magazine).
The book touches on many concepts, and some of the chapters are more convincing than others.
A lasting take home from the book are the stages of acceptance:
- Denial: This is physically impossible
- Revulsion: This is an outrage agains ...more
"There's nothing worse than a wish unfulfilled, except a wish fulfilled."
These two quotes sum up the gyst of what this book is primarily about. It's what happens when some baby-hungry women go shopping for superior genetic material by which to harvest the next generation of geniuses. David Plotz discusses ...more
To be fair, we should make clear from the beginning that it was the media that dubbed the enterprise 'The Nobel Prize Sperm Bank'. It's official name was 'Repository for Germinal Choice'. ...more
The book can be a bit dry and read like a textbook at times and the author's style of describing the families reads like a poor n ...more
Except, some of those supposed "smart sperm donors" were actually shockingly average. The fatherless children become disillusioned when they trace their genetic linage and find that their sperm donor has 20 kids and lives in a ramshackle house ...more
Robert Graham himself a genious disgusted by the mediocricity stumbled upon this idea (similar to hitler's Eugenics campaign but subtler in intesity of operation) and established the sperm bank.He was convinced that the offspri ...more
Don't let the word "history" in the subtitle scare you. Though Plotz thoroughly recounts the sperm bank's history, he keeps it moving and interesting at every turn. He puts everything in helpful perspective. It's eye opening how new the sperm-bank industry is...and I couldn't believe some of the crazy laws that existed not so long ago calling for sterilization of the "unfit." Even the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of it once! "Genius Factor" is enlightening and entertaining in equa ...more
There were times the book lagged for me, but still, the contradictions in the way this sperm bank was run, and the unintended consequences that sometimes--if not often resulted--will leave me thinking for a ...more
Critics are split on whether the book, which emerged from a series of articles Plotz wrote for Slate, is better when it focuses on personal stories or when it discusses the larger issues. The light tone that Plotz takes is never disrespectful. The author's seeming ambivalence about the genetic component of intelligence, and the lack of scientific context, might leave the reader equally undecided about both the morality and feasibility of this exercise in voluntary eugenics. In any event, the sto...more
I was wrong. From the first page all the way through I was highly entertained. I knew next to nothing about sperm-banking when I began reading this book, but would consider myself able to share an informed opinion about the practice now.
The specific history is indeed curious, and I appreciated Plotz's ability to share it in a narrative inter-spliced ...more
He is the author of "The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank" (2005) and "Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned when I Read Every Single Word of the Bible" (2009).