The so-called "Nobel sperm bank" has hired new representatives on the East Coast and is sifting through 400 applications from women who want to be inseminated with sperm from distinguished scientists.

The founder of the bank, California optometrist Robert Klark Graham, hopes that soon, between 100 and 200 children will be born from his social experiment.

So far, Graham's enterprise in Escondido, Calif., called the Repository for Germinal Choice, has used the sperm of three Nobel prize winners and 17 other highly distinguished prize winners in science and mathematics to produce two babies, six pregnancies, and 20 to 30 inseminations in progress.

With his insemination plan, Graham has given new life to an old philosophy -- eugenics -- that has long been held in disrepute in this country. It calls for selective breeding of humans to stop what Graham sees as the continual pollution of the human gene pool by the too-rapid breeding by "the non-producers" of society.

Graham's plan is controversial. Some, including his applicants -- the service is designed for women whose husbands are infertile -- say it is a fine alternative to the usual methods of artificial insemination because it allows some choice in who the donor will be.

Dr. Martin D. Greenberg, a gynecologist who does artificial inseminations, criticized the Graham group at a symposium on eugenics today, saying that the motivation of parents who become involved in such a program is suspect. "To want a super-being is not the greatest motivation to be a parent. And what if the children can't meet their parents' demands that they be geniuses, and of course, most of the children are going to be as normal as you or me? What kind of suffering could result?" Greenberg asked.

Greenberg also said the effort "seems to smack of the real super race. . . . The goal seems to be to produce a super race."

Paul Smith, Graham's assistant, spoke upon on the question at a press conference today: "We want the whole human race to be a master race . . . but it's up to couples planning children whether they want to take advantage of the service."

Asked if eugenics is fundamentally racist, he said that "some races suspect that they aren't as bright as others, and consequently resent the eugenic approach." They "would be opposed" to his efforts, he said.

He added: "We are neutral racially . . . but we are elitist, and that immediately invites the antagonism of more than half the population."

All of the sperm donors chosen so far are white, but Graham said he is "seeking black donors. But I won't find them in the field of science. We may extend our recruiting to, let's say, Olympic gold medal winners."

In a breakfast interview today, Graham said that he might hope to remake society from the genes up, but not with the small organization he has. As it is, he hopes to be an example for others to follow, and that one day sperm banks like his will dot the landscape.

Until such a day, he hopes to produce a few geniuses who would not otherwise exist. He has brought, for qualified married couples, "a new resource into the world."

Graham, who has eight children of his own and admits to "only a little above average intelligence," said that he first began thinking about eugenics when he was in high school. He noticed that the "unproductive" citizens of his town had many children and the "better" citizens had few. This worried him.

But he did nothing about the problem through most of his career as a lens maker and optometrist, until finally he sold his company and joined Hermann Muller, a Nobel winner in biology, who had been advocating eugenics for years. Together they planned the Repository for Germinal Choice.

He says that in America, the colonists were highly intelligent and things have been going downhill ever since. "In the recent past and the dismal present, the birthrate of our leaders, or problem-solvers and our successful producers has continued to decline," he told an audience at a symposium on his sperm bank in New York today.

"The birthrate of the non-producers and those less able to hold jobs will continue relatively high, due in part to government subsidy of their births."

"If this dysgenic racial degeneration practice is allowed to continued to the point of the bankruptcy of the system, future nations may wonder at the folly -- at the death wish -- of such a society."

He said he thinks that inferior genes are "a major part, bigger than 50 percent" of the reason for the nation's unemployment problems.

But on his own organization's record, Graham admits embarrassing mistakes.

In placing the prospective geniuses in the sort of homes they have defined, Graham admits his group is batting zero for two.

The first birth was to a husband and wife who are convicted felons; the mother lost custody of two children by a previous marriage after allegations of child abuse. The second birth was to a woman psychologist who wanted a child but no husband. She told the sperm bank she would get married, but never did, and had the child anyway.

The third child is due early next year.

In Graham's enterprise, the eminent donors periodically produce sperm to be frozen in small tubes until a recipient woman is selected. Often, many attempts at insemination are required before pregnancy occurs.