Theodore Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber, the terrorist scientist who sent letter bombs for decades and captivated the American imagination in the nineties, was found dead Saturday morning in the cell in which he was serving eight life sentences, according to a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He was 81 years old and the cause of death was not immediately clear.
Between 1978 and 1995, Kaczynski sent 16 letter bombs, many of them to universities, which killed three people and wounded 23. The FBI arrested him in 1996.
Until 2021, he was serving time in a maximum security prison in Colorado. Due to his state of health, he was transferred to a medicalized prison in North Carolina, where this Saturday his time came.
A gifted teenager, he embarked on a brilliant career as a mathematician. He graduated from Harvard, earned a doctorate from the University of Michigan and worked as an assistant professor at the University of Berkeley.
At the end of the sixties he abandoned academic life. In 1971, he conformed to a distinctly American mold, that of the man who, fed up with the hypocrisy of society, decides, like Henry David Thoreau, to go away to a cabin without running water or electricity. It was not, like Thoreau, in Concord, but in Lincoln, Montana. If personal mythology attributes that decision to the fact that he underwent a CIA psychological experiment at Harvard to develop mind control techniques.
In 1978, he began his terrorist activity and in the eighties had become an obsession of the FBI and a certain pop culture that flirts with the lives of characters to the limit. In 1995, The Washington Post and The New York Times agreed at the government's request to release a Unabomber manifesto in exchange for an end to attacks. The text was a plea against technology that started like this: "The industrial revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have increased the life expectancy of those of us living in advanced countries, but they have destabilized society and condemned human beings to indignity."
Kaczynski, whose image of a bearded hermit walking handcuffed among policemen went around the world after his arrest, clung without restraint to the utopian idea of the noble savage, of the pure man about which Rousseau wrote in the eighteenth century and that anarchism cultivated in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with influence to this day. His need to spread his anti-technological proclamations, after more than three decades locked in his world and with hardly any human contact, became his own trap. It was his younger brother David who, upon reading the manifesto, entitled Industrial Society and Its Future, appreciated the trace of Theodore, the genius anchorite, in expressions and grammatical turns. After weighing the dilemma of reporting her brother, she opted to notify the authorities.
The operation was launched and, after weeks of surveillance, on April 3, 1996, the long and mysterious history of the Unabomber, the investigation to which the FBI had allocated more funds and personnel until then, ended in the simplest way. An agent knocked on the door of the cabin and said, "Ted, we have to talk to you."
The mountain terrorist went from his nine-square-meter cabin to an eight-square-meter cell. His life in Florence prison, which houses the most dangerous prisoners, has spent the last two decades under strict surveillance.
[Breaking news. Update coming soon]
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