Robert K. Graham, born in the small town of Harbor Springs in northern Michigan, had a curious mind even as a young boy. He noticed in his small town that many of the successful people in his town were childless, and this troubled him.
Then, after attending college at Michigan State, he became a salesman calling on doctors for ten years. Robert Graham made his fame by “perservering with an abandoned effort to transform a plastic used in World War II bomber fuel tanks and windows into lightweight eye-glass lenses” (Van-Gelder). A self-made millionaire due to these shatter-proof eyeglass lenses, Graham began to set his sights on the problem that had been bothering him. He wrote a book, “The Future of Man,” in which he proposes “various ways to deal with vast human derangement brought about by the decline in average human intelligence” (Amazon.net). With his friends Raymond Cattell and through Cattell famous geneticist Hermann J. Muller, he began to brainstorm a facility that would assist in the creation of a new breed of high intellectuals.
A revolutionary idea that sounds like it couldn’t be real, was brought forth in 1980 when Graham created the Repository for Germinal Choice. Despite the fancy language, this facility was in it’s primary function, was essentially a sperm bank for geniuses. With Nobel Laureates and intellectuals across the globe making donations, it would seem that Graham was on the path to creating a population of humanity’s finest. Despite allegations that he was a racist and even a Nazi (he admitted all of the donors were white), Graham denied the accusation that he was attempting to build a super race of any kind, stating ” We will accept excellence in any race. What we’re trying to do is optimize the conditions for having children” (Van Gelder).
According to Anita Neff, the administrator of the Repository, around 218 people had been born at the time (1997), the oldest being fifteen (now thirty-two). Recruiting donors from all over college campuses, Julianna Mckillop revealed that the she traveled up and down the West Coast several times to ask for samples from students and professors. However despite this, one donor ever publically acknowledged taking part: William Shockley. According to Graham, there were at least two other Nobel donors, and a total of nineteen donors who repeatedly donated.\
Interestingly enough, the optimal women that took part in the Repository did not need to meet the same requirements. Most of them had trouble producing children, and in several cases hereditary effects possessed by the husbands prevented any chance of further lineage. Furthermore, these women were not required to go through any genetic screening or take an IQ test of any kind, which seems odd for group that wants to breed geniuses.
Fifteen years after the closing of the Repository for Germinal Choice and seventeen years after Robert K. Graham’s death, the results of his genetic matching seem relatively ordinary. Though many of them did well in school, most have settled into a more normal adult rhythm of life: an owner of a roofing business, a dancer, and an opera singer, among other careers.
While it seems that what was once fantastical and shocking brainstorm by a brash millionaire has just petered out into something non-extraordinary and that’s the end of it, there are still questions that linger around what might have been.