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What drove this child prodigy to bomb universities and airports?

The story of the Unabomber saw him go from Harvard at 16 to life imprisonment.

Unabomber Killings - Theodore John Kaczynski The Unabomber Source: AP/Press Association Images

IT HAS BEEN twenty years since the publication of the Unabomber’s manifesto.

This triggered the beginning of the end for a campaign of violence that last from 1978 until 1995.

It saw Ted Kaczynski, who had been accepted into Harvard at the age of 16, send a series of bombs to universities, airlines and a number of other targets, resulting in the deaths of three people and the injury of 23 others.

With his initial attacks targeting airlines and universities, the FBI gave him the moniker ‘University and Airport Bomber’, abbreviated to Unabomber.

As a younger man Ted Kaczynski pictured as a young professor Source: Bergman, George M./Wikicommons

On 18 September 1995, the New York Times and Washington Post both published his manifesto, entitled “Industrial Society and its Future”.

This led to the capture of one of the most intriguing and elusive criminals of the 20th century.

Who was he? 

Before gaining infamy for the attacks he carried out, Kaczynski had a remarkable if short-lived academic career.

After graduating high school early, he began studying at Harvard University in 1958 at the age of 16.

Following this he went on to earn a Phd in mathmatics from the University of Michigan and then to become the youngest person ever hired as a professor by the University of Berkeley in 1967.

In 1969 Kaczynski quit his position unexpectedly, and by 1971 was living the solitary life of a hermit in a isolated cabin near Lincoln, Montana.

Unabomber Property The cabin from where Kaczynski carried out his attacks Source: AP/Press Association Images

What did he want? 

Kaczynski’s cause could probably be best described as anti-technology.

In his 35,000-word manifesto, he rallies against the impact that the industrial revolution has had upon modern life.

He argues that new technologies fail to benefit human life in any way, and that “The system does not and cannot exist to satisfy human needs. Instead, it is human behavior that has to be modified to fit the needs of the system.”

Unabomber Auction A handwritten version of his manifesto was auctioned in 2011 to help his victims' families Source: AP/Press Association Images

In his work he predicted a system where humans were occupying themselves with trying to comply with new technologies, and as such were preventing themselves from leading fulfilling lives.

Why did the newspapers agree to publish his manifesto? 

When his manifesto arrived at the offices of The New York Times and Washington Post in April 1995, the two publications were faced with a stark ultimatum.

Either they would publish the document, or Kaczynski would continue to carry out his bombing attacks.

Before publication editorial and publishing staff from both papers met with members of the FBI who had working on the case since the 1970s.

The FBI pushed for its publication, arguing that it could save lives and potentially lead to the entrapment of the Unabomber.

Although initially reluctant, both papers eventually acquiesed and it was published on 19 September 1995.

This led to the document being identified as Kaczynski’s work by his brother David.

Profile The Unabombers Brother David Kaczynski pictured in 2011 Source: AP/Press Association Images

By comparing the manifesto with Ted Kaczynski’s earlier work, the authorities knew they had finally tracked down the man who had eluded them for 18 years.

What happened then? 

Following this, a raid by the FBI on his cabin on 3 April 1996 saw Kaczynski arrested, taken into custody, and later charged with 13 counts of bombing and murder.

Despite having been in prison for nearly two decades, his case still draws much interest.

During court proceedings it was deemed that Kaczynski suffered from paranoid schizophrania.

In an article written in 2000, author Alston Chase revisits a controversial thought experiment that was carried out on Kaczynski during his early years at Harvard, and speculates that it may have played a role in his later actions.

The tests involved the candidates writing personal essays and then being places under interrogation conditions and quizzed about the content of what they had written.

It was later thought that this may have been part of controversial US government-backed MK Ultra experiments that aimed to gain a better understanding of mind manipulation.

Kaczynski is currently serving eight life sentences at a maximum security prison in Colorado.

Read: Teacher charged with trying to sell albino schoolgirl for €8,900 

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