How Did The Unabomber Get His Nickname?

Over several decades, Americans were sporadically terrorized by an unknown individual sending explosive packages through the mail, seemingly at random. The culprit earned the name the Unabomber while he operated anonymously for nearly two decades, but eventually, investigators with the help of the bomber's family were able to point the finger at Ted Kaczynski, a math genius living as a hermit in the Montana wilderness, per the FBI.

One of the things that led to Kaczynski's downfall was when he had his manifesto published in newspapers around the nation. In the 35,000-word essay, he laid out his issues with society and the prevalence of technology in the modern age. However, according to History, in 1995, David Kaczynski noticed that the manifesto was similar to letters written by his eccentric brother, Ted. Linguistic experts took a look at the letters and compared them to the manifesto. Sure enough, there was a match.

The origin of the nickname Unabomber

Ted Kaczynski was a bright guy who graduated from Harvard University and went on to teach at the University of California, Berkeley at just 25 years old, making him the youngest professor, per History. Just two years after taking the job, he resigned and moved back to his hometown near Chicago, where he lived with his parents.

Then, in the early 1970s Kaczynski moved to Montana. There he lived in a small cabin near Lincoln, Montana, and it was there that he started making bombs. The first mail bomb sent by Kaczynski was in 1978 through the United States Postal Service. Its recipient was Buckley Crist, an engineering professor at Northwestern University. Crist was spared but the package injured a security guard. Several bombs were sent to universities. Then with his fourth, Kaczynski altered course and sent a package to the president of United Airlines.

Kaczynski's habit of targeting universities and airlines was the basis for his nickname, the Unabomber, stemming from the FBI's name for the investigations — UNABOM, for university and airline bomber. This was the only name by which the attacker was known for 15 years, though a composite sketch was released of a suspect wearing sunglasses, a baseball cap, and a hoodie, and seen leaving an explosive device in Salt Lake City Utah (via FBI).

The Unabomber Manifesto and capture

Kaczynski managed to evade capture until the 1990s, when he released his manifesto, which ultimately led to his undoing, According to History, by this point, the FBI was almost certain that the string of attacks had been carried out by the same person, or perhaps group of people. Kaczynski mailed his manifesto to major newspapers, and in it, he gave his reasons for committing his crimes, which mostly involved railing against technology and industrialized society.

The manifesto led to David Kaczynski's tip, which led police to Ted Kaczynski's cabin in the Montana wilderness, where they arrested him in 1996. The FBI found evidence that he was indeed the person responsible for crafting the explosive devices that had been mailed over the previous decade and a half. Since being convicted of his crimes in 1998, Kaczynski has been held in a supermax prison in Colorado. So far during his incarceration he's published two books.