Ted Kaczynski was born Theodore John Kaczynski on May 22, 1942 in Chicago, Illinois. Shortly after his birth, he developed an allergic reaction to some medication and had to be hospitalized for several weeks. His mother stated that he was never quite the same as before and would cry frequently. She also noticed that the child became more withdrawn, but the family continued to treat him normally anyways.
It became quite apparent at an early age that Ted was gifted as an intellectual. When he was ten years old, he took an IQ exam and scored a 170, which is quite remarkable in spite of the known shortcomings of such institutionalized intelligence testing. He was allowed to skip two grades in high school and graduated in 1958 to become a student at Harvard University, majoring in mathematics.
However, many also noticed Ted’s social shortcomings as well. He was very shy and would often walk by people without greeting them. He preferred to study rather than play with other children and many theorize that he had Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of autism.
While he was studying at Harvard University, he participated in numerous psychological experiments. His professor, Dr. Henry Murray, had worked for the Office of Strategic Services during the second World War and subjected his students to the same tests that the agency used to assess the abilities of recruits. Although the full details of the experimentation is not known, it appeared to focus on studying behavior under stressful conditions.
In 1962, Ted graduated from Harvard with his degree in mathematics. He moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he received a master’s and Ph.D. in mathematics at the local university. After finishing school, he began doing full time research in the area of complex analysis, specializing in geometric function theory. In 1967, he received an award for his dissertation paper, which was considered the best one at the school that year.
Later that year, he left Michigan to move to California, where he was hired as an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley. However, his socially inept behavior did not win the favor of students and he was given poor reviews. Ted decided to resign from the faculty in 1969 despite the protests of the school administration who recognized his talent.
For reasons unknown, Ted began living the life of a hermit in a small shack. To support himself, he would work random jobs and borrowed money from his family. In 1978, he even worked in a rubber factory with his brother and father.
That same year, Ted’s behavior took a disturbing turn. He loaded a package with explosives and put the return address as Professor Buckley Crist at Northwestern University. He then left the package in a parking lot outside of the University of Illinois, Chicago, where it was found and sent back to Crist’s office. Crist was suspicious since he had never mailed the package and had a security officer open it. The package exploded, causing minor injuries to the officer.
Ted continued to mail out his special packages, sending several to airline officials and even planting one in the cargo hold of a plane in 1979. Luckily, the bomb started smoking and the plane was evacuated such that the bomb could be defused. The bomb had failed due to a faulty timing mechanism, which was lucky since it would have otherwise destroyed the plane.
The FBI became involved after the plane incident and nicknamed their suspect “The Unabomber”. They initially suspected a disgruntled airline employee, but FBI agent John Douglas felt that the bomb was more likely the work of an academic. However, his claims were ignored and as a result no leads pointed to Ted Kaczynski.
The bombs appeared to all be constructed by hand with the inscription “FC” carved into certain parts. Authorities believed the acronym meant “Fuck Computers”, but it was later found that it stood for “Freedom Club”.
Ted continued to mail out bombs, causing the first serious injury in 1985. That year, he sent a bomb to Berkley graduate John Hauser, who lost four fingers and one eye from the explosion. That same year, a computer store owner was killed by a bomb loaded with nails that was lying in his parking lot. In 1987, another computer store in Salt Lake City, Utah was sent a bomb by Ted.
After the 1987 bomb, Ted took some time off for unknown reasons. In 1993, he resumed by mailing a bomb to David Gelernter, a computer science professor at Yale University. He sent another bomb that year to Charles Epstein, a well known geneticist, and mailed a letter to the New York Times stating that he was the leader of an anarchy club responsible for the bombings.
In 1994, Ted mailed a bomb to an advertising executive who was killed by the explosion. He justified the killing by stating that advertising executives were responsible for brainwashing people. In 1995, he mailed another fatal bomb to Gilbert Murray, the president of the California Forestry Association.
In 1995, he decided to mail letters to some of his victims and demanded that a 35,000 word paper titled “Industrial Society and its Future” be published in newspapers. The work became known as the “Unabomber Manifesto” and it was eventually published in the New York Times and Washington Post on September 19, 1995 in the interest of public safety.
In the manifesto, Ted declared that the progression of technology was a threat to humanity and that it should be stopped to allow humans to live naturally. He stated that a “social crash” was necessary to prevent the domination of the wealthy upper class over the working class. The manifesto also clearly stated Ted’s beliefs that every human should have to power to control their own lives instead of governments and corporations.
Unfortunately for Ted, his own younger brother recognized his handwriting in the manifesto and notified the FBI. A team of forensic linguists compared the manifesto handwriting to other samples provided by Ted’s family and confirmed that they were indeed written by the same person. On April 3, 1996, a team of FBI agents surrounded Ted’s lonely shack in Lincoln, Montana and arrested him.
At the trial, Ted’s lawyers tried to claim that he was innocent by reason of insanity, but ultimately failed. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, but also declared competent for trial and he plead guilty on January 22, 1998 to avoid the sentence of death. Ted later attempted to retract his plea, but his appeal was denied and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is currently serving that sentence at the Federal ADX Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.