Theodore Kaczynski

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Theodore Kaczynski

Theodore John Kaczynski, Ph.D., also known as the Unabomber (born May 22, 1942) is a Polish-American terrorist who attempted to fight against what he perceived as the evils of technological progress by sending mail bombs to various people over almost eighteen years, killing three and wounding 29. He was the target of the FBI's most expensive manhunt ever.

Before his identity was known, the FBI referred to him as the UNABOM (from "university and airline bomber"). Variants of the code name appeared when the media started using the codename, including Unabomer, and Unabomber.

The University of Michigan's Special Collection Library, The Labadie Collection, is housing Kaczynski's correspondence from over 400 people since his arrest in April 1996, some of his carbon-copied replies as well as some legal documents, publications, and clippings. The collection is expected to grow. The names of most correspondents will be kept sealed until 2049.

Kaczynski can be reached at: #04475-046, US Pen-Admin Max Facility, PO Box 8500, Florence Colorado 81226.

Early life

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Ted Kaczynski was intellectually gifted as a child and known to be extremely shy and aloof. While an infant, Kaczynski had a severe allergic reaction to medication. He was hospitalized for several weeks and was allowed only infrequent visits from his parents, who were barred from holding their child. The once-happy baby reportedly was never the same. According to his mother, he initially cried incessantly and would plead for her comfort. Afterwards he became increasingly withdrawn and unresponsive to human contact, developing "an institutionalized look." By all accounts Kaczynski's parents were warm and loving towards both him and younger brother David.

Friends and neighbors noticed the boy's intellectual gifts, but thought his social skills were severely lacking: "I would see him coming in the alley. He'd always walk by without saying hello. Just nothing," said Dr. LeRoy Weinberg, a former Kaczynski neighbor. "Ted is a brilliant boy, but he was most unsociable ... This kid didn't play. No, no. He was an old man before his time." Some experts have suggested he suffers from Asperger's syndrome, which could account for this behavior.

He skipped two grades, graduating from high school in 1958 and entering Harvard at the age of 16, majoring in mathematics.

While a student at Harvard, Kaczynski participated in psychological experiments. Kaczynski is mentioned in an article [1] about a long-ignored personality profile of Adolf Hitler, written by Dr. Henry A. Murray for the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) during World War II. It says: "Dr. Murray himself was a controversial figure. Having returned to Harvard after the war, he was involved in psychological experiments in 19591962 in which a stress test similar to one the O.S.S. had used to assess recruits was administered to student volunteers. Among them was the young Theodore J. Kaczynski, a precocious student at Harvard who later became known as the Unabomber. Lawyers for Mr. Kaczynski, who pleaded guilty in 1998 to letter bomb attacks that killed 3 people and wounded 28 others, traced some of his emotional instability and fear of mind control to those tests."

In 1962 Kaczynski graduated from Harvard. After graduation, he attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, earning a master's degree and a Ph.D. in mathematics. Kaczynski began a research career at Michigan, though he made few friends. One of his professors at Michigan, George Piranian, said, "It is not enough to say he was smart." He earned his Ph.D. by solving, in less than a year, a math problem that Piranian himself had been unable to solve. Kaczynski's specialty was a branch of complex analysis known as geometric function theory. "I would guess that maybe 10 or 12 people in the country understood or appreciated it," said Maxwell O. Reade, a retired math professor who served on Kaczynski's dissertation committee. In 1967, Kaczynski received a $100 prize recognizing his dissertation, entitled "Boundary Functions", as the school's best in math that year. At Michigan he held a National Science Foundation fellowship, taught undergraduates for three years, and published two articles related to his dissertation in mathematical journals. After he left Michigan, he published four more papers.

In the fall of 1967 Kaczynski was hired as an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley. Kaczynski's aloofness and reserve made students rate him poorly. Despite the attempt at persuasion by the department staff, Kaczynski resigned without explanation in 1969. Calvin Moore, vice chairman of the department in 1968, said that given Kaczynski's "impressive" thesis and record of publications, "he could have advanced up the ranks and been a senior member of the faculty today."

After resigning his position at Berkeley, he held no permanent employment. He lived in a remote shack on very little money, occasionally worked odd jobs, and received some financial support from his family. In 1978, he worked briefly with his father and brother at a foam rubber factory.


The first mail bomb was sent in late May 1978 to Prof. Buckley Crist at Northwestern University. The package was found in a parking lot at the University of Illinois at Chicago, with Prof. Crist's return address (and a send to address of Prof. E.J. Smith at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute). The package was sent 'back' to Crist. Suspicious of a package he never sent, Crist notified campus police. A campus police officer by the name of Terry Marker opened the package, and it exploded; Marker sustained minor injuries.

The initial 1978 bombing was followed by bombs to airline officials and in 1979 there was a bomb placed in the cargo hold of a commercial airplane. The bomb began smoking and the pilot was forced to make an emergency landing. Many of the passengers were treated for smoke inhalation. Only a faulty timing mechanism prevented the bomb from exploding. Authorities said it had enough firepower to obliterate the plane. The FBI became involved after this incident and came up with the code name UNABOM. They also called the suspect the Junkyard Bomber because of the material he used. The FBI at first thought the culprit was a disgruntled airline mechanic. FBI Agent John Douglas, the father of "profiling" criminals, disagreed with this. He claimed the bombs were much too sophisticated and that the bomber was most likely an academic. Profiling was a new investigative tool at the time and Douglas's theory was largely ignored. After Kaczynski's arrest, the FBI came under much criticism. It was pointed out that if they had only checked into the disgruntled academic theory, they could have easily caught this man many years earlier.

The first serious injury occurred in 1985, when a Berkeley graduate student lost four fingers and vision in one eye. Captain John Hauser had applied for astronaut training and only a few days after his injury he learned he had been accepted. The bombs were all hand crafted and carried the inscription "FC" — at one point reported to stand for "Fuck Computers," but later found to mean "Freedom Club." A California computer store owner was killed by a nail- and splinter-loaded bomb lying in his parking lot in 1985. A similar attack against a computer store occurred in Salt Lake City, Utah, on February 20, 1987.

After a six-year break, Kaczynski struck again in 1993, mailing a bomb to David Gelernter, a computer science professor at Yale University and developer of Linda, a distributed programming system. Gelernter has written a book on the subject, Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber. Another bomb in the same year maimed the geneticist Charles Epstein. Kaczynski wrote a letter to The New York Times claiming that his "anarchist group" called FC was responsible for the attacks.

In 1994, an advertising executive was killed by another mail bomb. In a letter, Kaczynski justified the killing by pointing out that the public relations field is in the business of developing techniques for manipulating people's attitudes. This was followed by the 1995 murder of California Forestry Association president Gilbert B. Murray in Sacramento, California.


In 1995, Kaczynski mailed several letters, some to his former victims, outlining his goals and demanding that his 35,000-word paper Industrial Society and Its Future (commonly called the "Unabomber Manifesto") be printed verbatim by a major newspaper; he stated that he would then end his bombing campaign. There was a great deal of controversy over whether it should be done. A further letter threatening to kill more people was sent, and the Justice department recommended publication out of concern for public safety. Eventually, the pamphlet was indeed published by the New York Times and the Washington Post on September 19 1995, with the hope that somebody would recognize his writing style (as indeed happened; see below).

The main argument of Industrial Society and Its Future is that technological progress is undesirable, can be stopped, and in fact should be stopped in order to free people from the unnatural demands of technology, so that they can return to a happier, simpler life close to nature. Kaczynski argued that it was necessary to cause a "social crash", before society became any worse. He believes a collapse of civilization is likely to occur at some point in the future; thus, it is better to end things now, rather than later, because the further society develops, the more painful things will be when the collapse occurs. If it does not occur, he says, humans will have the freedom and significance of house pets, although they may be happy, in a society dominated by machines or an elite social class.

Its critique of technological society makes the manifesto a Neo-Luddism tract, sharing some ideas with other contemporary anti-technological writers such as John Zerzan, Fredy Perlman, Jacques Ellul, Lewis Mumford and Derrick Jensen (though its scope is broad, as Kaczynski also devoted large sections to criticizing "leftists" and "oversocialized types"). Despite the association, the manifesto has been discussed seriously. Bill Joy, cofounder of Sun Microsystems, quoted it in his April 2000 Wired magazine article on the dangers of technology, "Why The Future Doesn't Need Us", as an example of dystopian concerns that deserved a response. [2] Selective quotation from the manifesto has been used to attack more mainstream environmentalists by painting them as similar to Kaczynski, as in 1999 when a widely publicized Web page [3] compared statements by Kaczynski with Al Gore's book Earth in the Balance, pointing out ostensible similarities between statements in the two works.

Arrest and trial

Kaczynski's younger brother David recognized Ted's writing style from the published manifesto and notified authorities, who sent officers to arrest Kaczynski on April 3, 1996, at his remote cabin outside Lincoln, Montana. David Kaczynski had once admired and emulated his elder brother but had later decided to leave the survivalist lifestyle behind. David had received assurances from the FBI that he would remain anonymous and that in particular his brother would not learn who had turned him in, but his identity was later leaked — prompting an unsuccessful internal investigation by the FBI. In addition, the family received guarantees, which were later betrayed, that prosecutors would not seek the death penalty against Ted. David donated the reward money — less his legal expenses — to families of his brother's victims. In January 1995, a graduate student in English at Brigham Young University noticed that Joseph Conrad's novel The Secret Agent provided an anarchistic rationale for the bombing of professors and science. After Ted Kaczynski's arrest it was discovered that, like the protagonist-professor Verloc in the novel, Kacsynski had given up a teaching position at a university to pursue a career as a solitary anarchist. Investigators further learned that Kaczynski grew up with a copy of the book in his home and had read it more than a dozen times, and had used the pseudonyms "Conrad" or "Konrad" at times when he traveled to distribute his bomb-packages.

Kaczynski's lawyers attempted an insanity defense, which he rejected; a court-appointed psychiatrist diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia but declared him competent to stand trial. Kaczynski avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty on January 22, 1998. He later attempted to withdraw his guilty plea, arguing it was involuntary. Judge Garland Burrell denied his request, and that denial was affirmed by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Kaczynski is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole in ADX Florence, the Federal ADX Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

He has been active as a writer in prison. He has written a memoir (Truth Against Lies) and has had a scholarly letter printed in the New York Review of Books.[4]

Relation to anarchism

Although Kaczynski called himself "anarchist", Anarchists disagree as to whether his manifesto truly represents an anarchist critique of technology. There is no indication that he ever had any contact or involvement with the anarchist movement prior to his arrest, making his adoption of the term seem uninformed. Some anarchists agree that his tactics (similar to the theory known as "Propaganda of the deed" which was adopted in the late 19th century by Russian Nihilists and a small minority of German and Italian Anarchists) were unacceptable and unlikely to succeed in any meaningful way. For a contemporary discussion of these issues from within the Anarchist movement itself refer to "You Can't Blow up a Social Relationship: The Anarchist Case Against Terrorism"[5].

Some believe his writings to be naive and reductionist, obviously developed within a vacuum outside the influence of other important anticapitalist thinkers. Some—most notably John Zerzan—find the manifesto insightful and worthy of consideration. Most, however, feel the detrimental aspects of being associated with the Unabomber outweigh any value that might be found within his writing.

See also

Wikisource has the full text of Kaczynski's manifesto.

Further reading

  • Ron Arnold, Ecoterror: The Violent Agenda to Save Nature : The World of the Unabomber, 1997
  • Alston Chase. Harvard and the Unabomber: The Education of an American Terrorist , extended from the Atlantic article, about the Murray psychological experiment
  • Alston Chase, A Mind for Murder: The Education of the Unabomber and the Origins of Modern Terrorism, 2004
  • Douglas and Olshaker, Unabomber: On the Trail of America's Most-Wanted Serial Killer , 1996, Pocket Books, ISBN 0671004115
  • James A. Fox, et al, Technophobe - The Unabomber Years: The Ultimate Sourcebook of Facts,....
  • David Gelernter, Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber, 1997, ISBN 0684839121
  • Robert Graysmith, Unabomber : Desire to Kill, 1997
  • T.J. Kaczynski, 1967. Boundary Functions [doctoral dissertation]. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.
  • T.J. Kaczynski, 1964. Another proof of Wedderburn's theorem. Am. Math. Month. 71:652-653.
  • T.J. Kaczynski, 1964. Distributivity and (-1)x = -x. Am. Math. Month. 71:689.
  • T.J. Kaczynski, 1965. Boundary functions for functions defined in a disk. J. Math. and Mech. 14(4):589-612.
  • T.J. Kaczynski, 1965. Distributivity and (-1)x = -x [with solution by Bilyeau, R.G.]. Am. Math. Month. 72:677-678.
  • T.J. Kaczynski, 1966. On a boundary property of continuous functions. Michigan Math. J. 13:313-320.
  • T.J. Kaczynski, 1969. The set of curvilinear convergence of a continuous function defined in the interior of a cube. Proc. Am. Math. Soc. 23:323-327.
  • T.J. Kaczynski, 1969. Boundary functions and sets of curvilinear convergence for continuous functions. Trans. Am. Math. Soc. 141:107-125.
  • T.J. Kaczynski, 1969. Boundary functions for bounded harmonic functions. Trans. Am. Math. Soc. 137:203-209.
  • T Kaczynski, Homotopy theory of condensing maps and non-linear problems. This one may be a different T. Kaczynski.
  • Michael Mello, The United States of America versus Theodore John Kaczynski: Ethics, Power and the Invention of the Unabomber, 1999
  • Jay Nash, Terrorism in the 20th Century: A Narrative Encyclopedia from the Anarchists, Through the Weathermen, to the Unabomber
  • Jill Smolowe, et al, Mad Genius : Odyssey, Pursuit & Capture of the Unabomber Suspect, 1996
  • Chris Waits, Dave Shors, Unabomber: The Secret Life of Ted Kaczynski, 1999

External links

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