From the former editor of Slate and CEO of Atlas Obscura comes the unbelievable story of “the Nobel Prize sperm bank” and the children it produced—“a superb book about the quest for genius and, ultimately, family” (Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and Talking to Strangers).
It was the most radical human-breeding experiment in American history. 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. Crisscrossing the country and tracking down previously unknown family members, award-winning Slate columnist David Plotz unfolds the full and astonishing story of the Nobel Prize sperm bank and its founder’s radical scheme to change our world.

Praise for The Genius Factory

“[David] Plotz’s wonderful history of the Nobel sperm bank is filled with wit, pathos and insight. . . . [He acts] as narrator, ethnographer, historian, social critic and even go-between, brokering reunions between children and their genitors.”Chicago Tribune
“Perfectly pitched—blithe, smart, skeptical, yet entranced by its subject.”The New York Times
“By turns personal, confounding, creepy, defiant of expectations and touching . . .The Genius Factory isn’t merely curious, it’s useful.”San Francisco Chronicle
“Tense, hilarious, and touching . . . wonderfully readable and eye-opening.”The Wall Street Journal
“Terrific . . . [a] lively account.”The Washington Post Book World
“[Plotz] pulls off the tricky feat of taking readers on a trip both serious and silly. . . . In between the alarming and the absurd, we also get something more, something unexpected: an ongoing, fascinating and deeply felt meditation on fatherhood and family.”Salon

“The human story is painful and brilliantly related. . . . This is not just another local tale of American freakery, this is the story of a fundamental change in our attitudes to reproduction. Unpretentious, well organised, simply and readably told, this is a fine book about the human spirit and its indomitable pursuit of error.”The Sunday Times (London)

“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 and Spook

“A moving, even tender, tribute to the multiple ways in which families are created, revised, and sustained.”Washingtonian

“Is The Genius Factory a cautionary tale? An exposé? . . . A fun, easy read? A sensitive portrayal of the lengths that people will go to create clan? The answer is all of the above.”Newsday