With the April arrest of Theodore Kaczynski, the world may have put to rest one mystery—the identity of the Unabomber. But it opened another. Who is this sad and intricate man? We know that in the 1950s, when the Kaczynski boys were growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Ted was the one who was great with books but terrible with people. While his younger brother David played ball with other kids, Ted huddled in the attic with his arithmetic, a hermit at 11. He had a knack for making little explosive toys, but he was hopeless in his dealings with either sex. At Harvard, where he studied math, housemates recalled him as the guy whose room was sour-smelling and who fled from human contact. As one of them, astronomer Patrick McIntosh, recalled, "Ted had a special talent for avoiding relationships by moving quickly past groups of people and slamming the door behind him."
No one who knew Ted—and there were never many—was surprised when he went on to a Ph.D. and then to a fast-track teaching post at the University of California, Berkeley. But they also weren't surprised when he abruptly retreated to an isolated cabin in Lincoln, Mont. He did, after all, have a talent for slamming the door behind him. David, who had some of the same loner streak, found similar isolation in the deserts of Texas. But something in David led him back to society, to a marriage and a job and a home. Something in Ted led him deeper into his own obsessions.
For 18 years the police and FBI sought the Unabomber, whose killing spree left three dead and 23 injured. But the national manhunt required a family tragedy for what seems to be its completion. It was David, after much painful hesitation, who turned in the brother he loved. He had recognized in the language of the Unabomber's manifesto—the 35,000-word attack on technology that the terrorist demanded be published as the price of a lull in his bombing campaign—some of the bleak contours of Ted's thinking.
Kaczynski, who has pleaded not guilty, refuses now to talk with his brother or his aged mother. But four acquaintances from Lincoln have been in touch. "We write to him about the usual stuff," says Sherri Wood, the town librarian. "My recent root canal, the latest on what's been going on in Lincoln." Not long after his arrest, the four visited Kaczynski in a Montana jail. "I teased Ted about being a star," says Wood. A dark star, certainly.
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