Ted Kaczynski, a former math professor and “twisted genius” who was known as the “Unabomber” for a 17-year string of bombings that killed three people and stumped the FBI, died on Saturday at the age of 81.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons told ABC that Kaczynski was found dead in his cell at a jail in North Carolina. He made and sent many of the bombs while living in a cabin in rural Montana without running water.
Since he was a child, the Harvard University graduate lived alone. From 1978 to 1995, he went on a one-man terror campaign against what he thought were the sins of modern technology. His targets included professors, scientists, and computer store owners. He even tried to blow up a commercial airliner.
Police couldn’t figure out who the killer was for years, so they called his case UNABOM, which stands for University and Airline Bombings. Kaczynski’s 35,000-word “Industrial Society and Its Future” manifesto, which was revealed in the media in September 1995, was a turning point.
David Kaczynski, Kaczynski’s younger brother, told the police that the author’s thoughts sounded like Ted’s. In April 1996, agents went to the Unabomber’s house and caught him.
The tweet below verifies the news:
The ‘Unabomber’ Ted Kaczynski found dead in his jail cell at 81 years old pic.twitter.com/p0gkXyP4zg
— Daily Loud (@DailyLoud) June 10, 2023
Kaczynski’s lawyers tried to get him to plead “insanity,” but he refused. Instead, he pleaded guilty to all federal charges related to the bombings in 1998, and a court in California gave him four life sentences and 30 years in jail.
Kaczynski was sent to ADX Florence, a “supermax” jail in Florence, Colorado. The FBI called him “a twisted genius who wants to be the perfect, anonymous killer.” ABC said that in 2021, he was moved to a home in North Carolina.
Theodore John Kaczynski was born in Chicago on May 22, 1942, to Polish-American parents from the working class. He was a smart, quiet child who finished high school at age 15 and went to Harvard University on a grant to study math.
Dale Eickelman, who was Kaczynski’s friend in early high school, told the Daily Southtown newspaper in Chicago after Kaczynski’s arrest, “He wasn’t exactly outgoing, but he was very smart.”
“I remember that Ted was great at science… I remember that when Ted was 12 or 13, he knew how to put together things like batteries, wire leads, potassium nitrate, and other things, and then set them off.
Even though no one knows for sure what made Kaczynski use his natural ability for bad, he may have been influenced by a well-known science experiment he took part in at Harvard.
There, researchers put Kaczynski and other volunteers through hours of verbal and emotional abuse as part of an experiment to see how people deal with stress. Three years passed during the experiment, which is now seen as unethical.
Others have said that Kaczynski spent long parts of his childhood alone because he had a bad case of hives.
Kaczynski got his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Michigan in 1967. After that, he became an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley.
In 1971, he quit his job and went to Montana, where he bought land and built a tar-paper cabin near Lincoln, a wintertime town with less than 1,000 people. Kaczynski was upset that development was cutting down the woods around him.
His campaign of making homemade bombs started in 1978 when he sent a package to an engineering professor at Northwestern University in Chicago. A police officer was slightly hurt when the package burst. A graduate student at the college became the second victim when he held a small bomb that went off and burned him on the outside.
Kaczynski then set his sights on a bigger target. In 1979, he put a bomb in the cargo hold of an American Airlines plane. During a domestic flight, the plane started to smoke, and the pilot had to make an emergency landing at Dulles International Airport near Washington.
This attack got the attention of the FBI, and agents spent years trying to find the bomber, who didn’t leave any clear requests and didn’t leave a lot of forensic evidence. Between 1987 and 1993, no bombs were sent. This made it even harder for agents to figure out what was going on.
In 1980, Kaczynski sent United Airlines President Percy Wood a bomb in the mail. The bomb went off at Wood’s home in Illinois, hurting him.
Hugh Scrutton, 38, was the owner of a computer store in Sacramento, California. In 1985, a bomb full of nails and splinters went off in the parking lot of his shop, killing him.
As his bombs got better, Kaczynski also killed a New Jersey advertising executive named Thomas Mosser with a mail bomb in 1994. Mosser had worked to improve Exxon’s public image.
Then, in 1995, he used a mail bomb to kill Gilbert Brent Murray, who was the head of a California group that fought for the timber business.
The Unabomber set off a total of 17 bombs, which hurt about 25 people, some of whom lost their sight, hearing, or fingers.
In 1995, Kaczynski sent letters to news organizations demanding that they print a 35,000-word essay he had written about the dangers of industrialization. This was the start of his own downfall.
The article started with, “The Industrial Revolution and all of its effects have been a disaster for the human race.” Kaczynski explained how modernization has made society less stable, made people suffer, and “done serious damage to the natural world.”
Still without any clues, the FBI and U.S. Attorney General at the time, Janet Reno, agreed to let The Washington Post publish the letter in the hopes that someone would recognize it.
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The move paid off when the bomber’s brother, David, saw some of Ted’s words and ideas in the essay and told police he thought Ted wrote it.
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