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The Sperm Bank for Nobel Prize Winners

The Repository for Germinal Choice, better known as the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank, was founded in 1980 by multimillionaire Robert Graham, inventor of shatterproof eyeglass lenses. His goal was to combine the sperm and eggs of superior men and women—ideally Nobel laureates—to produce superior babies. 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 William Shockley, who won the award for inventing the transistor and was an unapologetic racist. 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. In the end, however, its biggest legacy was 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 use.

This article was written by Maggie Koerth-Baker and Linda Rodriguez-McRobbie and originally appeared in a 2010 issue of mental_floss magazine. Check out our new iPad edition and get the latest issue free!

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