The Genius Factory
In 1980, eccentric California millionaire Robert Graham opened the Repository for Germinal Choice, nicknamed the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank and stocked with the seed of scientists and inventors (including William Shockley, co-inventor of the transistor and outspoken admirer of some of Hitler’s genetic theories). Did the Repository, which shuttered in 1999, produce any superkids? Slate editor David Plotz tries to find out by tracking down several of its not-so-Nobel donors as well as a sampling of its 215 children, ranging from those who are flourishing to those who scuffle through life wearing Insane Clown Posse T-shirts. While he never solves the nature-versus-nurture quandary in The Genius Factory, Plotz leads an amusing trip through one of the oddest alliances of science and commerce ever attempted.