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- June 20, 2005
- Vol. 63
- No. 24
The Nobel Prize Sperm Bank Was Intended to Create a Cadre of Superkids. In His New Book The Genius Factory, David Plotz Finds Out What Really Happened
Were Graham's donors all Nobel Prize winners?
No. Graham got three Nobel Prize winners to donate sperm, including William Shockley, the physicist known for his racist views. After that, Graham had a hard time getting Nobel Prize winners and no babies were born from Nobel sperm. He recruited math prodigies, entrepreneurs, scientists. Gradually the quality slipped and he took volunteers, some of them men you might not wish on your ex-girlfriend.
Did the donors all have genius IQs?
Graham always asked for IQ test scores, but he didn't vet them. Most were extremely bright, healthy, impressive physical specimens. But one donor told me he reported an IQ of 160 when in fact he had never been tested.
Did mothers who used the bank know their donor's identity?
No, it was veiled in privacy. They chose from a catalog that listed profession, interests, health. Banks now are starting up identity release programs, where donors must identify themselves. It's very valuable for kids to know their genetic identity.
How did you find the bank's kids?
The kids found me. I wrote articles on the Internet inviting anyone involved to contact me, and soon I was hearing from donors, mothers and children who wanted to meet each other.
How many did you find?
So far more than 30 kids ranging in age from 7 to 23. I've connected eight of them with their donors, and counting. Just this week I connected three.
The big question: Are the kids geniuses?
They are above average as a group, but the range is very wide. The kind of woman who went to the Nobel sperm bank really cared about how her child turned out. They were determined to have accomplished kids. Measuring what the donor contributed is impossible.
Was it tough for them to grow up thinking they were programmed for intellectual greatness?
Some felt it as a great burden, and felt the pressure to excel from their mothers. For the most part it didn't weigh on them excessively. Some even thought it was a little bit of a bonus.
So was the Nobel sperm bank a good thing?
It allowed women more choices than in the past, paving the way for today's sperm banks, which offer men of every ethnicity, look and interests. But you can't manufacture geniuses with a few smart sperm donors.
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