Unabomber Suspect Left Little Trace

by Marie Felde

From mid-1967 until July 1969 Theodore "Ted" Kaczynski was an assistant professor at Berkeley. On Wednesday, April 3, this "almost pathologically shy" mathematician living in remote Montana emerged as the prime suspect in the 18-year-old Unabomber case.

By Monday, April 8, a Nexis international news index search by the Public Information Office found more than 13,500 Unabomber stories that included a reference to Berkeley.

On campus, the news that a suspect had been arrested brought a sense of both hope and relief. Since 1982, when a booby-trapped gas can placed at Cory Hall exploded injuring Professor Diogenes Angelakos, the Unabomber has cast an unwelcome shadow across campus.

"Right now, people are waiting. I'm sure there is great hope" the case can be closed, said Capt. Bill Foley who has been the campus's liaison in the FBI Unabomber Task Force. "Even when he strikes elsewhere, it brings back memories of what happened here. Hopefully this will give people some closure," said Foley.

Three years after the first campus bomb, a graduate student was injured by another bomb left at Cory Hall. And then last summer the Unabomber struck again here, but with words rather than explosives.

Psychology Professor Tom Tyler was completely surprised when he received in his office mail a package containing what may turn out to be the case-breaking anti-technology manifesto from the Unabomber.

Since the first bombing at Northwestern University in 1978, 16 explosions and three deaths have been attributed to the Unabomber.

The arrest of Kaczynski, the first major break in the case, was headline news across the country and was covered by the international press, too.

The fact that the suspect has a Berkeley connection doesn't seem to surprise many on campus, but what does is the fact that such a notorious suspect is almost unremembered.

With the national press--from the New York Times to Inside Edition--swarming the campus and inundating everyone in the Mathematics Department, long-time math professors were working like crazy to try to recall Kaczynski.

On April 4, a day after the connection broke, Professors John Addison and Calvin Moore gamely faced a throng of more than 75 print and television reporters at a standing-room-only briefing in the student union.

After reviewing old files, Addison, who was then chair of the department, and Moore, the vice-chair, said their memories of the suspect were vague but the record showed the young mathematician from Harvard and the University of Michigan was off to a "brilliant start to his career."

Addison produced two letters that were quoted in nearly every press account of the day on the bombing case. In one, dated March 2, 1969, Addison reported to the L&S dean on the "unexpected resignation.... Dr. Kaczynski has decided to leave the field of mathematics."

The letter went on to say, "Vice Chairman Calvin Moore and I have tried to persuade him to reconsider his decision but have not been successful."

Addison and Moore said they particularly wanted that letter released to provide facts to combat the uninformed but televised speculation that Kaczynski's retreat into a recluse and suspected terrorist was because the department had not been supportive of him.

What was true, both said, was that the young mathematician was a loner, described in a 1970 letter from Addison to Kaczynski's Michigan thesis adviser as " almost pathologically shy."

Moore relayed a memory from a colleague recalling that to help Kaczynski break the ice in the department, he was invited to lead the weekly department seminar among the faculty.

"The tradition was to go out afterwards for beer and pizza," said Moore. Kaczynski participated, but when invited to join the others afterwards he declined and walked away.

With so few recollections and so little hard information to go on, reporters were digging up whatever they could.

The Daily Californian scored a scoop by finding a summary of student evaluations of Kaczynski's teaching appearing in the Winter 1969 SLATE supplement to the General Catalog. It was not flattering, but was based on only six questionnaires. In fact, most of the evaluations of other classes appearing on the same page were negative.

Of Kaczynski, one anonymous student reported: "He absolutely refused to answer questions by completely ignoring the students."

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that one of the Unabomber's victims, Sacramento computer store owner Hugh Scrutton, was a visiting student at Berkeley the summer of 1967. Scrutton was a math major, but although Kaczynski was hired July 1, 1967, it didn't appear he was scheduled to teach until the fall quarter. Scrutton was killed in the 1985 bombing.

The oddest fact was reported in the Oakland Tribune. It noted that Kaczynski and "Rosebud" Denovo, the woman killed in an attempted attack on the chancellor in 1992, had lived at the same Regent Street address.

Reporters digging for a personal side to the man believed to be the Unabomber, seized on information reported the first day in the Los Angeles Times about his being romantically involved and marrying an attractive blonde woman working in the department.

The professor quoted soon realized he'd confused Kaczynski with another assistant professor, but by then TV news tabloid shows were on the hunt for "Kaczynski's blonde bombshell."

Capt. Foley, who has been working closely with the FBI on the case for many years, said Kaczynski's name first appeared earlier this year on an FBI list seeking information on a number of people with expected campus connections.


Copyright 1996, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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