For more than 17 years, the FBI was left scrambling for pieces of evidence and clues to nail down one of the most notorious domestic terrorists in American History. He was faceless, meticulous and so thorough at this craft that the FBI had to set up a 150-man full-time task force to smoke him out. He became known as The Unabomber, a name that first evolved from the acronym UNABOM (University and Airline Bomber) which was coined by the FBI to represent his targets. Over time, the media began referring to the unknown terrorist as The Unabomber.
Who Was The Unabomber?
The Unabomber was born Theodore John Kaczynski on the 22nd of May 22, 1942, to Wanda Theresa and Theodore Richard Kaczynski. He also had a younger brother David. Ted had a regular middle-class urban upbringing showing signs of an incredible intellect at a very young age.
Ted attended Evergreen Park Community High School where he was always ahead of his classmates in Mathematics and at the age of 15, he graduated and got a scholarship to Harvard at the prompting of his parents. Ted’s measured IQ result was a score of 167, higher than Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein.
At Harvard, Ted was housed at Prescott House, a dormitory for the youngest students, designed with a more intimate feel to aid their integration. Over the course of his first-degree program, Ted was a loner and introvert who preferred to spend his time pouring over complex mathematical theories rather than interact with students.
One of the turning points in his psychological evolution and development came while at Harvard when he participated in the psychological experiment by Harvard psychologist Henry Murray geared at subjecting volunteers to extreme levels of stress and mind manipulation to evaluate its impact on the human psyche. The subsequent trajectory of his life clearly indicates that this process left a lasting impression on him. He graduated from Harvard with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics in 1962.
Before he was known as the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski attended the University of Michigan, where he bagged a master’s degree and then a Ph.D. in Mathematics. Upon graduation, he took up a teaching role at the University of California, Berkeley where he became the youngest Assistant Professor of Mathematics in the history of the University.
However, as a teacher, he was miserable, he was difficult to deal with, didn’t entertain questions from students and was generally impatient with slow learners. His social life was on a downward spiral and he got disillusioned with civilization. On June 30, 1969, Ted abruptly resigned and left the University.
What Happened To Him?
After leaving his job, he moved in with his parents for two years; after which, he headed off into the woods near Lincoln, Montana, where he erected a small bare-bone cabin without electricity and running water. He started learning primitive survival skills, organic farming, and bow drilling. Over time, new houses began to spring up slowly around him and his anger at civilization heightened. He took exception to airplanes flying over his peaceful forest abode and interrupting his solitude and soon marked them down as a problem he’d solve by sending bombs to some of its executives.
The Unabomber’s first attack was a mail bomb that he sent to a professor of Materials Engineering at Northwestern University. His next target was the airline industry; towards the end of 1979, Ted planted bombs in the cargo hold of an American Airlines Flight 444. Later, he targeted the President of United Airlines, Percy Wood.
Over a 17 year period, The Unabomber held the nation and law enforcement spellbound by a series of high profile detonations. He sent one to the University of Utah in 1981, and the following year in 1982, Janet Smith, a secretary at Vanderbilt University was left with severe burns from one of his bombs. That same year he sent an explosive package to his former employers, the University of California Berkeley, where Diogenes Angelakos, an engineering professor was left with fatal facial wounds. The list was piling up.
In total, The Unabomber killed three people and severely injured 23 others in a nationwide bombing campaign against modern technology and organizations he felt endangered the environment. The genius of Ted Kaczynski was evident in his bombing, he ensured that he left false clues and left no traces behind. All forensic analysis for 17 years led the FBI nowhere.
The Unabomber’s Arrest And Trial
In 1995, The Unabomber switched up his tactics in what ultimately lead to his downfall. He sent a 35,000-word, 78-page manuscript titled Industrial Society and Its Future to the New York Times and the Washington Post. He threatened the newspaper outlets that a failure to publish them would leave him with no choice but to bomb an unnamed location with an intent to kill. The documents outlined Ted’s thoughts about the dangers of industrialization and the catastrophe it portends for the human race.
After Ted’s memo was published, his younger brother David made comparisons between the text and previous correspondence Ted had sent him and saw similarities in the literary construct and style. He alerted the FBI who, on April 3, 1996, arrested Ted at his Montana cabin. After his cabin was raided, evidence corroborating his crime was found. On the 4th of May 1998, Ted Kaczynski was sentenced to four life sentences without any option of parole.