Infamous 'Unabomber' Ted Kaczynski dies at 81

Kaczynski's descent into a life of violence and terror remains a subject of speculation

Web Desk
Sunday, June 11, 2023
Theodore Kaczynski is led out of federal court where he was charged with a single federal weapons violation April 4, 1997 (L) and poses in his booking mugshot from April 1996(R).—Reuters

Ted Kaczynski, the infamous "Unabomber," has passed away at the age of 81. Kaczynski, a former math professor and self-proclaimed "twisted genius," gained notoriety for his 17-year reign of terror through a series of mysterious bombings that killed three people and baffled law enforcement, particularly the FBI.

On Saturday, he was found unresponsive at the Federal Medical Center Butner in North Carolina, where he was being held for prisoners with special health needs, and was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Born on May 22, 1942, in Chicago, Kaczynski exhibited remarkable intelligence from an early age. He graduated from high school at 15 and went on to study mathematics at Harvard University on a scholarship. Described as a loner throughout his life, Kaczynski's disturbing fascination with explosives was evident even during his teenage years. A friend from his high school days recalled his knowledge and ability to create explosive devices using basic materials.

Kaczynski's descent into a life of violence and terror remains a subject of speculation. Some attribute it to his involvement in a controversial psychological experiment at Harvard, where he and other student volunteers endured extreme verbal and emotional abuse to measure their response to stress. Others point to a period of isolation during his childhood due to a severe bout of hives. Regardless of the cause, Kaczynski's academic journey led him to earn a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Michigan in 1967. He briefly worked as an assistant mathematics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, before retreating to rural Montana in 1971.

It was in Montana that Kaczynski constructed a primitive cabin, devoid of modern amenities, and embarked on his deadly bombing spree. His targets included academics, scientists, computer store owners, and even a commercial airliner. The FBI struggled for years to identify and apprehend the elusive Unabomber, as he left few forensic traces and no clear demands. However, Kaczynski's downfall came when he sent his manifesto, titled "Industrial Society and Its Future," to media outlets, demanding its publication. His brother recognised the writing and alerted the authorities, leading to his arrest in 1996.

Kaczynski pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the bombings and received multiple life sentences. Despite his twisted intellect, the FBI referred to him as a "twisted genius" with a desire to become the perfect anonymous killer. He spent his remaining years incarcerated at ADX Florence, a high-security prison in Colorado, before being transferred to the Federal Medical Center Butner in 2021.