Remember the "Nobel sperm bank"? Ever wonder what happened to it and the high-IQ progeny whose existence it aimed to facilitate? Slate, the free online magazine started by Microsoft king Bill Gates, did. Now it's combining amateur sociology with a clearinghouse function as it seeks to gather information on the 19-year run of this attempt to smarten up the population.
The Repository for Germinal Choice, as the Nobel bank was known, was started by California tycoon Robert K. Graham in 1980. He initially managed to round up donations from three Nobelists--including transistor inventor and race theorist William Shockley--but later opted for younger and fitter brains such as those to be found on the campuses of the University of California, Berkeley, and the California Institute of Technology. After arranging for the germination of some 229 offspring, the repository closed in 1999 not long after the death of its 90-year-old founder.
Slate's Washington, D.C., editor, David Plotz, is now conducting a "journalistic experiment," trying to round up donors, parents, and children (while observing anonymity) to see what the experience has to tell us as we enter "a new age of eugenics." So far he has been in contact with a half-dozen donors, including a famous 149-IQ "entrepreneur," eight parents, and two over-18 offspring. "The series will continue indefinitely," says Plotz, tracking children, putting families in touch with each other, and exploring the issue of "contemporary private eugenics." "The repository families can tell us how the scientific theory translates into lived human experience," writes Plotz, and "the burdens and joys of genetic expectations."
The series also has tracked down the sperm bank's first director, Paul Smith, who now runs a private high-IQ sperm operation in Nevada, "providing a few more potentially great people, one genome at a time." Smith wants to get in touch with Bill Gates. "I don't think much of his operating system," he told Plotz, "but I would like his sperm."
Introduction to Slate's Seed project