The Best Thing to Come Out of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank (other than the idea for the movie Twins)


Since it's Christmas and all, we wanted to give you one last sneak peek at the new issue. This one comes from our cover story on Acts of Genius, Ripped from the Headlines. The story itself is pretty great (we cover Marie Curie's scandalous affair, why Paul Dirac never took off his 3-piece suit, how one man helped feed the entire world), but I'm just tossing you a sidebar on the Nobel Sperm Bank. Enjoy!

The Nobel Prize Sperm Bank—Deposits and Withdrawals

The Repository for Germinal Choice, better known as the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank, was founded in 1980 by multimillionaire Robert Graham, inventor of the shatterproof lens. His goal was to combine the sperm and eggs of superior men and women—ideally Nobel laureates—to produce babies who would clearly be well above average. If all this sounds an awful lot like eugenics, well, it was.

In practice, most Nobel-Prize winners were smart enough to steer clear of the bank, but three decided to make a deposit. One of these was the white supremacist William Shockley, who won the award for inventing the transistor, but lost the respect of the world when he declared that intelligence testing had proven, definitively, that white people are smarter than black people. The other sperm donors were more random, and at least one of them lied about his intelligence. But was The Repository for Germinal Choice a failure? That's hard to say. It brought more than 200 babies into this world, and many had higher than average IQs, although none has gone on to change the world. In the end, its biggest legacy might be that it changed how sperm banks work by offering detailed profiles of the donors. Now, it's commonplace for women to choose the looks, professions and interests of the men whose sperm they wish to become impregnated by.