Theodore John "Ted" Kaczynski (/kəˈzɪnski/; born May 22, 1942), also known as the "Unabomber", is an American anarchist and serial murderer. Between 1978 and 1995, Kaczynski engaged in a nationwide bombing campaign against people involved with modern technology, planting or mailing numerous homemade bombs, ultimately killing a total of three people and injuring 23 others. He is also known for his wide-ranging social critiques, which opposed industrialization and modern technology while advancing a nature-centered form of anarchism. Kaczynski was born and raised in Evergreen Park, Illinois. While growing up in Evergreen Park he was a child prodigy, excelling academically from an early age. Kaczynski was accepted into Harvard University at the age of 16, where he earned an undergraduate degree. He subsequently earned a PhD in mathematics from the University of Michigan. He became an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley in 1967 at age 25. He resigned two years later. As a Harvard undergraduate, Kaczynski was among twenty-two students who were research subjects in ethically questionable experiments (possibly part of Project MKUltra) conducted by psychology professor Henry Murray from late 1959 to early 1962. In 1971, he moved to a remote cabin without electricity or running water, in Lincoln, Montana, where he lived as a recluse while learning survival skills in an attempt to become self-sufficient. 17 years after beginning his mail bomb campaign, Kaczynski sent a letter to The New York Times on April 24, 1995 and promised "to desist from terrorism" if the Times or the Washington Post published his manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future (also called the "Unabomber Manifesto"), in which he argued that his bombings were extreme but necessary to attract attention to the erosion of human freedom necessitated by modern technologies requiring large-scale organization. The Unabomber was the target of one of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's costliest investigations. Before Kaczynski's identity was known, the FBI used the title "UNABOM" (UNiversity & Airline BOMber) to refer to his case, which resulted in the media calling him the Unabomber. The FBI (as well as Attorney General Janet Reno) pushed for the publication of Kaczynski's "Manifesto", which led to his sister-in-law, and then his brother, recognizing Kaczynski's style of writing and beliefs from the manifesto, and tipping off the FBI. Kaczynski tried unsuccessfully to dismiss his court appointed lawyers because they wanted to plead insanity in order to avoid the death penalty, as Kaczynski did not believe he was insane. When it became clear that his pending trial would entail national television exposure for Kaczynski, the court entered a plea agreement, under which he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. He has been designated a "domestic terrorist" by the FBI. Some anarcho-primitivist authors, such as John Zerzan and John Moore, have come to his defense, while also holding some reservations about his actions and ideas.
Kaczynski was born on May 22, 1942, in Evergreen Park, Illinois, to second-generation Polish Americans Wanda (née Dombek) and Theodore Richard Kaczynski. At nine months of age, Kaczynski's body was covered in hives. He was placed in isolation in a hospital where visitors were not allowed, as physicians were unsure of the cause of the hives. He was treated several times at the hospital over an eight-month period. His mother wrote in March 1943, "Baby home from hospital and is healthy but quite unresponsive after his experience." Kaczynski attended grades one through eight in Evergreen Park District 124 Schools. As a result of testing conducted in the fifth grade, which determined he had an IQ of 167, he was allowed to skip the sixth grade and enroll in the seventh grade. Kaczynski described this as a pivotal event in his life. He recalled not fitting in with the older children and being subjected to their bullying. As a child, Kaczynski had a fear of people and buildings, and played beside other children rather than interacting with them. His mother was so worried by his poor social development that she considered entering him in a study for autistic children led by Bruno Bettelheim. He attended high school at Evergreen Park Community High School. Kaczynski excelled academically, but found the mathematics too simple during his second year. Sometimes he would cut classes and write in his journal in his room. During this period of his life, Kaczynski became obsessed with mathematics, spending prolonged hours locked in his room practicing differential equations. Throughout secondary schooling, Kaczynski had far surpassed his classmates, able to solve advanced Laplace transforms before his senior year. He was subsequently placed in a more advanced mathematics class, yet still felt intellectually restricted. Kaczynski soon mastered the material and skipped the eleventh grade. With the help of a summer school course for English, he completed his high school education when he was 15 years old. He was encouraged to apply to Harvard University, and was subsequently accepted as a student beginning in 1958 at the age of 16. While at Harvard, Kaczynski was taught by famed logician Willard Van Orman Quine, scoring at the top of Quine's class with a 98.9% final grade.
He also participated in a personality assessment study conducted by Henry Murray, an expert on stress interviews. These experiments may have been part of the controversial, top-secret CIA program that was later revealed as Project MKUltra. Students in Murray's study were told they would be debating personal philosophy with a fellow student. Instead, they were subjected to a "purposely brutalizing psychological experiment". During the test, students were taken into a room and connected to electrodes that monitored their physiological reactions, while facing bright lights and a one-way mirror. Each student had previously written an essay detailing their personal beliefs and aspirations: the essays were turned over to an anonymous attorney, who would enter the room and individually belittle each student based in part on the disclosures they had made. This was filmed, and students' expressions of impotent rage were played back to them several times later in the study. According to author Alston Chase, Kaczynski's records from that period suggest he was emotionally stable when the study began. Kaczynski's lawyers attributed some of his emotional instability and dislike of mind control techniques to his participation in this study. Indeed, some have suggested that this experience may have been instrumental in Kaczynski's future actions. Kaczynski graduated from Harvard University in 1962, at age 20, and subsequently enrolled at the University of Michigan, where he earned a PhD in mathematics. Kaczynski's specialty was a branch of complex analysis known as geometric function theory. His professors at Michigan were impressed with his intellect and drive. "He was an unusual person. He was not like the other graduate students," said Peter Duren, one of Kaczynski's math professors at Michigan. "He was much more focused about his work. He had a drive to discover mathematical truth." "It is not enough to say he was smart," said George Piranian, another of his Michigan math professors. Kaczynski earned his PhD with his thesis entitled "Boundary Functions" by solving a problem so difficult that Piranian could not figure it out. Maxwell Reade, a retired math professor who served on Kaczynski's dissertation committee, also commented on his thesis by noting, "I would guess that maybe 10 or 12 men in the country understood or appreciated it." In 1967, Kaczynski won the University of Michigan's Sumner B. Myers Prize, which recognized his dissertation as the school's best in mathematics that year. While a graduate student at Michigan, he held a National Science Foundation fellowship and taught undergraduates for three years. He also published two articles related to his dissertation in mathematical journals, and four more after leaving Michigan. In late 1967, Kaczynski became an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught undergraduate courses in geometry and calculus. He was also noted as the youngest professor ever hired by the university, but this position proved short-lived. Kaczynski received numerous complaints and low ratings from the undergraduates he taught. Many students noted that he seemed quite uncomfortable in a teaching environment, often stuttering and mumbling during lectures, becoming excessively nervous in front of a class, and ignoring students during designated office hours. Without explanation, he resigned from his position in 1969, at age 26. The chairman of the mathematics department, J. W. Addison, called this a "sudden and unexpected" resignation, while vice chairman Calvin Moore 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."