Past Event

The Genius Factory

View this and other past events in the Future Perfect series on-line or on television via the Illinois Channel.

Author David Plotz, Acting Editor of Slate magazine, discusses his critically-acclaimed book, The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank. The book discusses the attempt by eccentric millionaire Robert Graham to create a “Nobel Prize Sperm Bank” and the subsequent poignant and all-too-human results of that failed attempt. The children of the “genius factory” are messengers from the future–a future that is bearing down on us fast.

What will families be like when parents routinely “shop” for their kids’ genes? What will children be like when they’re programmed for greatness? In this eye-opening presentation, David Plotz previews America’s coming age of genetic expectations.

Plotz will be introduced by Phillip V. Davis, Department Deputy Chair and Associate Professor of Medical Humanities at the SIU School of Medicine.

This event is a joint program sponsored by the Illinois Humanities Council and the SIU School of Medicine. It is part of both the: Pearson Memorial Medical History Lecture (SIU) and the statewide series, Future Perfect: Conversations on the Meaning of the Genetics Revolution (IHC).


David Plotz‘s The Genius Factory is the true story of the Nobel Prize sperm bank. It opened in 1980 and potential parents from all over the country went to the bank to choose a donor from its roster of Nobel-laureate scientists, mathematical prodigies, successful businessmen, and star athletes. Plotz came across the bank while researching William Shockley, a Nobel laureate who was also a donor to the repository. Plotz began to wonder about the fate of the more than 200 children born from the Nobel sperm bank. In 2001, he wrote a series about the sperm bank for Slate titled “Seed.” Over the next three years, Plotz continued searching for the children from the bank, which culminated in this book.

David Plotz is theacting editorof Slate, where he has worked since it launched in 1996. At Slate, he’s been a feature writer, political columnist, and media columnist. He has also freelanced for many magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s , Reader’s Digest, Rolling Stone, New Republic, Washington Post, and GQ. He won the National Press Club’s Hume Award for Political Reporting in 2000 for a Harper’s article about South Carolina’s gambling industry. That piece was also a National Magazine Award Finalist. He won an Online Journalism Award in 2002 for a Slate piece on Enron, and was an Online Journalism Award finalist for the “Seed” series in 2001.

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