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Publisher's Summary

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.

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.

©2005 David Plotz; (P)2005 Books on Tape, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Plotz has fun poking holes in the eugenic vision of the repository's founder....More captivating, however, is Plotz's recounting of the efforts of the women who visited the repository to discover the identities of their donors. As he gets to know a cluster of families and donors, Plotz reaches insightful conclusions about the unforeseen emotional consequences of artificial insemination....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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Z
  • 08-11-05

Interesting stories, but not what I expected.

I'm not sure what I expected when I got this audio book, but it wasn't what I got. I guess I thought there would be some more solid data about how the whole nobel prize sperm bank experiment all turned out, or more about the genetic factors in intelligence.

However, now I've heard it, it's understandable why there wasn't more about this aspect. It's because no-one really knows how the nobel sperm experiment turned out, and if the stories in the book are anything to go by, many of the donors weren't really genius's anyway, and only one nobel prize winner is actually known to have donated.

The stories are interesting, and relate to donors finding children, children finding donors, children finding half siblings, and the interactions and relationships that ensue between them. It raises thinking points about what impact the donors had on the intelligence of the children as well as the impact finding out they were nobel sperm babies had on them. But it doesn't so much answer these questions as leave them for you to ponder yourself.

There is a smattering of the authors opinions on various topics surrounding the nobel sperm bank, sperm banking in general, eugenics and alike, but it's more passing thoughts and general opinions than concerted research. However the author always presents it as such, and never tries to pass off his musings as factual.

Overall it was an entertaining book, and the authors style is quite funny. There's one particular story that really stands out, when one of the children finally meets his "nobel" donor, and he is not quite what you would expect.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • John
  • Upper Lake, CA, USA
  • 03-25-06

Rest of the story..

An interesting listen for finding what had happened to the "breed your own Nobel Winner" idea. The development of the history and insight of expectations that were generally unmet gives a good base for cloning expectations. I had a feeling of closure, and that was satisfying.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Surprisingly engaging albeit a bit soppy

I listened to this in the space of three days, partly because I was doing a bit of driving, but also because the story was surprisingly engaging. The stories of some of the progeny play out a bit Jerry Springer/Real Housewives, but on the whole remain very grounded.

Overall this didn't conflict with my expectations of genetic predisposition but it was an interesting romp through an aspect of the fertility industry. There are biographic aspects that are a bit boring and all too predictable even if Plotz does try to balance and contextualise, overall succeeding, which are not as engaging, but a turn for the interesting and intriguing is always around the corner. In the end I guess this is a bit voyeuristic, like reality tv, but it lacks the over the top peaks those programs focus on and remains grounded even if some of the individuals do drag the discussion into that direction.

So, interesting but not surprising, with dramatic interludes but lacking drama (in a good way).

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    5 out of 5 stars

Guess who started the Eugenics craze? Not Germany.

A great introduction to the United States Eugenics movement. Brilliantly told. Expertly read. Great story!

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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Gregg
  • Oak View, CA, United States
  • 11-03-09

A good read

As has been said, the book goes somewhat astray of it's title but that's OK. The characters are real and interesting. Oddly, there are few if any super brain stories here. The Nobel babies struggle to decide what happens now that their "gift" is out, then life happens, pure and simple. Ditto the donors who run the gamut from hoping to someday meet their offspring to those who have all but forgotten they donated at all.

The authors spin on the larger picture represented here is balanced and his first person account is endearing. The book sneaks up on you, it's a good one. I liked the reader a lot as well. I'd definitely recommend this one.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Sam
  • 12-09-09

The Genius Factory

Thought provoking!