Unabomber: Biography of the Genius of Mathematics who Became a Terrorist

How did a Harvard graduate hide in the forest to prepare acts of terrorism? Available on Netflix, the Manhunt series: Unabomber tells the long quest of American terrorist Ted Kaczynski, from the late 70s to the mid-90s.

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How did a Harvard graduate hide in the forest to prepare acts of terrorism? Available on Netflix, the Manhunt series: Unabomber tells the long quest of American terrorist Ted Kaczynski, from the late 70s to the mid-90s.

At the end of the longest “hunt” in history, after two decades of intense investigation, the FBI finally arrested Unabomber (University and Airline Bomber / Terrorist of Universities and Airlines) in April 1996. For 18 years, the man, hidden under the beard of a hermit, transformed the country into a real reign of terror.

Unabomber: childhood in solitude

From the forest in which he lived in total isolation, Theodore Kaczynski had committed 16 attacks, killed 3 people and wounded 23 others. The most surprising thing is that apparently nothing predestined this Harvard graduate and brilliant mathematician to become a terrorist of such a magnitude

Born on May 22, 1942, from a father who owned a sausage factory and a housewife, Ted Kaczynski grew up in Evergreen Park (a village in Illinois). His childhood was apparently common, but his anger towards the world was forged from childhood.

His brother David is convinced that the moment of his birth was a trauma for Ted: “My father and my grandmother left Teddy in the hall just to come see me at birth. When they came back from the hospital he was sitting on the floor crying. ” He was not sounding for a few months, something that happened also when he was hospitalized for different allergies and nobody was going to see him.

Ted’s parents agreed to overtake his son in school, which caused even more isolation and discomfort in him. As if this were not enough, a classmate, who began as his only and faithful friend, later went on to harass and mock him with other children in the class.

Youth of Unabomber: victim of an unethical psychology experiment

The brilliant Ted Kaczynski joins the ranks of the prestigious Harvard University in September 1958, at the age of 16. Finally he begins to mix, he begins to swim and fight in sports classes, joins a band and even starts having some friends.

However, there is an event that changes this inertia: it is part, as an experimental subject, of the studies led by the researcher Henry Murray. Before the experiments, Ted and Henry established a very close friendship, to the point that Ted considered this teacher his best friend and confidant.

Henry conducted tests “to analyze the reactions of people under stress.” He subjected students to intensive interrogations, what he called “vehement and abusive personal attacks”. He insisted on shaking and changing “the egos, as well as their beliefs and ideals.” It was a project subsidized by the CIA to develop techniques of mental manipulation, perhaps to apply to Russian workers related to the communist regime and arrested by the United States.

During the test, the students were tied to a chair and connected to electrodes that monitored their psychological responses. Everything was filmed as audio recording, and later a feeling of anger and impotence was generated in the students when reproducing their words. Kaczynski’s lawyers attribute part of their emotional instability and aversion to mind control to their participation in this study.

He finished with a Harvard graduate and a Ph.D. in mathematics on “the limit properties of geometric functions and forms”. A retired professor of mathematics member of the dissertation committee of Kaczynski, also said of his thesis that “It is possible that only about 10 or 12 people in the United States understand or appreciate it. He has an intelligence from another world. “

Moving to the forest and beginning of Unabomer attacks

Ted Kaczynski moved to Montana in late 1971. In the middle of nowhere, he built a wooden hut without water or electricity that will become the physical basis of his acts of terrorism. The surrounding pine forest becomes a real trap for rabbits: put barbed wire between the trees, sabotage the mining machines or destroy the cabins with axes.

After performing explosive tests, he developed a more complete plan and sent his first bomb, on May 26, 1978, to Northwestern University (north of Chicago) that slightly injured an employee of the institution. A dozen attacks will continue through bomb packages, aimed at soldiers, academics, employees of electronic stores or any other type of what he fears: the slavery of man by machines.

“The fears of the modern person tend to be MADE BY THE MAN. They are no longer the result of chance, they are IMPOSITIONS of other people, in whose decisions, as an individual, it is incapable of influencing. Consequently he feels frustrated, humiliated and furious.”

-Theodore Kaczynski

The terrorist details his ideology in a manifesto sent to the New York Times and the Washington Post, with the promise to stop his misdeeds if one of the newspapers publishes his text, entitled The Future of Industrial Society (The industrial society and its future). It exposes the risk of the growing dependence on technology, “whose social strength is more powerful than the desire for freedom”.

This manifesto, published on September 19, 1995 by the Washington Post, draws the attention of David Kaczynski, who contacts the FBI. He claims to have recognized the writing of his brother Theodore after comparing it with some of his work papers.

Unabomber screenshot

The criminologist James Fitzgerald developed refined techniques of text analysis, playing an important role in the investigation that led to the capture of Unabomber and its legal process. As in lofoscopy or DNA, there are no two identical letters and it is a perfectly valid identification element.

The process is relatively simple and consists of comparing the letter between an undoubted document – that of which there is no doubt about its authorship -, with that of another text that is doubtful, that about which there are doubts about its authentic authorship, to look for coincidences or discrepancies in their spellings.

He was arrested on April 3, 1996. After psychological tests, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and paranoia. But he refuses to be considered crazy and asks to defend himself, feeling betrayed by his lawyers and his family.

On May 4, he was sentenced to life imprisonment in a high security prison in Colorado and, despite multiple appeals on appeal, he remains imprisoned to this day.