When the Unabomber Was Arrested, One of the Longest Manhunts in FBI History Was Finally Over

From Smithsonian Magazine by William Finnegan:


Sketch of the Unabomber

The Unabomber cut a swath both deep and narrow through the country’s psyche. His attacks were frightening and unpredictable, but, in the later stages of his 17-year terror campaign, he emerged from the shadows as a vengeful philosopher bent on changing history. He was a riveting, infuriating figure. I wanted to write about him, but not from the police point of view and not speculatively, when nobody yet knew who he was. He finally came into focus, for me, at his trial. I covered it, and in the end surprised myself by thinking that he had been deprived of his day in court.

 Before he became the Unabomber, Theodore J. Kaczynski was a gifted mathematician. Raised in and around Chicago, he went to Harvard on scholarship at age 16 and, in 1967, became the youngest assistant professor of mathematics ever at the University of California, Berkeley. But mathematics was unimportant to him, he later said. It was just a game he was good at. Indeed, he fiercely resented his mother’s insistence that he was a genius. In 1969, Kaczynski abruptly fled academia.

“Ever since my early teens I had dreamed of escaping from civilization,” he later told an interviewer. He built a bare-bones cabin in the woods near Lincoln, Montana, where he lived without electricity or indoor plumbing. He hunted and gardened and kept to himself, eating squirrels, rabbits, parsnips, berries. In 1978, he began sending parcel bombs to scientists, businessmen and others whose work enraged him.

Law enforcement dubbed him the “Unabomber” because his early targets were universities and airlines.

Read the rest of the article at Smithsonian Magazine

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