Theodore John Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber (born May 22, 1942) is an American terrorist who attempted to fight against what he perceived as the evils of technological progress by engaging in an almost eighteen-year-long campaign of sending mail bombs to various people, 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.
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Early life, education and career
Born in Chicago, Ted Kaczynski was extremely 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 allowed infrequent visits from his parents, during which they could not hold 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 Afterwards he became increasingly withdrawn and unresponsive to human contact, developing "an institutionalized look."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 have said that the boy's intellectual gifts were apparent, but 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 would explain his autistic behavior.
He skipped two grades, graduating from high school in 1958 at the age of 16. Afterwards, he earned a bachelor's from Harvard University in mathematics in 1962 but did not particularly distinguish himself there. After graduation, he attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, earning a master's and a Ph.D. in mathematics.
An interesting sidelight is provided in an article 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. About Murray it says: "Dr. Murray himself was a controversial figure. Having returned to Harvard after the war, he was involved in psychological experiments in 1959–1962 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." New York Times
Kaczynski began a successful research career at Michigan, though he made few friends. His early career laid much of the basis of his popular image as an evil, mathematical genius. This conclusion should be treated with caution, not only because many scientists and mathematicians are popularly portrayed as geniuses and/or evil, but also because mutual admiration is a common academic habit. For example, one of his professors at Michigan, George Piranian, said, "It is not enough to say he was smart." This comment alludes to the fact that Kaczynski, in his Ph.D. work, solved an open problem that had frustrated Piranian.
Kaczynski's specialty was a branch of complex analysis known as geometric function theory. His ideas in this area were clever and effective, but they were also obscure. "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.
Kaczynski was hired as an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, in the fall of 1967. Kaczynski's aloofness and reserve made him a rather dull teacher and his students rated him very poorly. Against 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 did not hold 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. David was forced to fire his brother after he had harassed a female co-worker. Ted was always very hostile towards both David and his parents. They would often go years without seeing each other. He once wrote to his mother and said "I can't wait till you die so I can spit on your corpse".
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 in New York state). 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 Unabomber. 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 Kacynski's arrest, the FBI came under much criticism. It was pointed out that if they had only checked into the disgruntled academic theory that they could have easily caught this man 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 murder of California Forestry Association president Gilbert Murray in 1995.
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 in September 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. 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 railing at "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.  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  compared statements by Kaczynski with Al Gore's book Earth in the Balance, pointing out ostensible similarities between statements in the two works.
Apprehension 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 and become an 'everyman'. 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. A professor of English noticed that the outlook of the Manifesto resembled that of the protagonist Verloc, an anarchist from Joseph Conrad's novel The Secret Agent. It was discovered that Kaczynski grew up with a copy of the book in his home and had read the book over a dozen times. He had also used the pseudonym Konrad on occasions.
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. As of 2004, Kaczynski was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole in the Federal ADX Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. He has been active as a writer in prison.
Relation to Anarchism
Although Kaczynski called himself "anarchist", other anarchists disagree as to whether his manifesto truly represents an anarchist critique of technology. Given that there is little indication that he ever had any contact or involvement with the anarchist movement prior to his arrest, it seems his adoption of the label is uninformed at best. Virtually everyone within anarchism agrees that his tactics (similar to the disastrous "Propaganda of the deed" of the late 19th century) were unacceptable and not likely to succeed in any meaningful way.
It was shortly after Kaczynski's arrest that an interesting theory came to light. Two independant researchers claimed that Kaczynski might have also been the infamous "Zodiac" killer who terrorized San Francisco in the late 1960s. The Zodiac killed five people and wounded two others. He was never caught. There were eyewitnesses who saw the Zodiac killer and police made a composite sketch. There was a strong resemblance between this sketch and a young Ted Kaczynski. One of the survivors said the Zodiac drove away in a tan Ford. David Kaczynski said that at the time his brother owned such a car. It was pointed out that Kaczynski had resigned his position at University shortly after the Zodiac murders began. Others have disputed this. It was pointed out that the Zodiac killed his victims face to face while Kacynski preferred to kill from a distance with his mail bombs.
- Hugo de Garis — Another person who predicts that humanity's future may be doomed because of technology (but advocates technological progress nonetheless).
- Bill Joy, Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems; wrote the essay Why the Future Doesn't Need Us which defended some of Kaczynski's ideas and warned that technological development is rapidly approaching singularity, which will mean the end of the human era. The essay has been compared by The Times to Albert Einstein's 1939 letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt warning of the possibility of an invention by the Nazis of an Atomic Bomb.
- John Zerzan, Major Primitivist and Anarchist philosopher who defended Kaczynski's writings and was a confidant to him during his trial.
- Fredy Perlman, First modern thinker to advocate Anarcho-Primitivism.
- Green Anarchy, An Anarchist magazine that has published some of Kaczynski's writings including his play Ship of Fools; they have also published anarchist critiques of what they consider to be the unexamined sexism in his manifesto.
- Jason McQuinn, Editor of Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed; wrote the essay One, Two, Three, Many Unabombers which defended Kaczynski.
- The Definitive UNABOM Page
- Full text of the Unabomber Manifesto
- Bullough, John, "Published Works of Theodore Kaczynski"
- Conrad, Joseph, The Secret Agent (from ReadBookOnLine.net)
- Kaczynski, David, "The death penalty up close and personal"
- Kaczynski, Ted, "Industrial Society And Its Future"
- Ottley, Ted, "All about the Unabomber"
- Interview with Kaczynski
- Rotten Library's Unabomber Article