British scientist 'fathered 600 children' by donating sperm at his own fertility clinic Bertold Wiesner set up the controversial London Barton clinic with his wife Mary Bartons in the 1940sOnly select members of the couple's friends were chosen as donors to help women conceive 1,500 babies
Two biological sons have found 18 others conceived at clinic – 12 were fathered by Dr Wiesner
22:13 GMT, 8 April 2012
A British scientist fathered up to 600 children after founding a fertility clinic that promised to provide sperm donors from ‘intelligent stock’, it emerged yesterday.
Biologist Bertold Wiesner supplied sperm to the partners of infertile men from the middle and upper classes, including ‘peers of the realm’.
His wife Mary Barton later destroyed medical records, meaning most of those conceived there – and their thousands of subsequent offspring – have no idea of their true family history and blood ties.
Family ties: Barry Stevens with a photograph of his father Bertold Wiesner
Half-brothers: Barry Stevens from Canada, left, and David Gollancz from London, right, were both conceived at the controversial Barton clinic and have discovered that Bertold Wiesner is their biological father
But two men conceived by artificial
insemination at the practice, which operated from the early 1940s until
the mid-1960s, have completed research suggesting up to two-thirds of
sperm donations during that period were by Wiesner.
David Gollancz, one of Wiesner’s
biological sons, estimated he would have made 20 donations a year,
meaning he is likely to have fathered between 300 and 600 children.
The barrister found out in 1965, at
the age of 12, that he was born from a sperm donor, but was never told
who his biological father was.
He finally discovered the truth
through DNA tests and has subsequently made contact with 11 of his
half-siblings, including documentary-maker Barry Stevens, who led
research into the clinic. Mr Gollancz said he had mixed feelings about
his unusual family history.
Donor: It is believed that Bertold Wiesner may have fathered up to 600 children through donating sperm at the fertility clinic he founded with his wife Mary Barton in the 1940s
He said: ‘It’s rather uncomfortable,
because artificial insemination was developed on an industrial scale for
cattle and I don’t like the feeling of having been “bred”.
‘But meeting the half siblings that I
have tracked down has been a very life-enriching experience. This does
make it frustrating too, because I know there are all those other
siblings out there who I don’t know but would really like to meet. I’d
love to be able to hire a huge marquee and invite them all to a party.’
Wiesner and Barton’s clinic, based in
London’s Portland Place, is believed to have helped women conceive
around 1,500 babies known as the ‘Barton Brood’.
The virgin sperm donor who has fathered 14 children
Trent Arsenault, 36, hit the headlines last December after revealing he had fathered 14 children despite being a virgin by donating his sperm to reproductively challenged couples.
Mr Arsenault, from Silicon Valley, California, set up a free online sperm bank to help childless couples in situations where he claimed the only other alternative would be sex with a stranger.
Speaking on Anderson Cooper's daytime show, he said: '100 per cent of my sexual energy is for producing sperm for childless couples to have babies. So I don't have other activity outside of that.
'I will probably be the 40-year-old virgin, except I'll have 15 plus kids.'
He told Huffington Post: ‘I'm helping people in need… I'm not running a business here.'
The high fees meant most of their clients were middle-class, but Barton also claimed to have helped many of the upper classes and even some ‘peers of the realm’.
The couple used family friends to provide sperm, but a shortage of donors is believed to have led to Wiesner providing the majority.
DNA tests were carried out in 2007 on 18 people conceived at the clinic between 1943 and 1962. The tests found that 12 of the group – two-thirds – were Wiesner’s children.
Dr Barton told a 1959 government forum on artificial insemination: ‘I matched race, colouring and stature and all donors were drawn from intelligent stock.’
She added: ‘I wouldn’t take a donor unless he was, if anything, a little above average.
‘If you are going to do it [create a child] deliberately, you have got to put the standards rather higher than normal.’
An article the couple wrote in 1945 about their work prompted a peer to denounce their activities in the House of Lords as ‘the work of Beelzebub’.
Geoffrey Fisher, then Archbishop of Canterbury, also demanded the closure of the clinic.
Austrian-born Wiesner died in 1972, aged 70. His wife died 11 years ago.
Mr Gollancz was involved in a campaign to stop sperm donors being anonymous, but said he still wanted further changes in the law.
He said: ‘I would like to see birth certificates also carrying the name of the sperm or egg donor.
‘Most recipient parents don’t tell their children they are conceived this way, meaning they would never know to search for a donor father.
‘People have a right to know about their own history.’