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April 12, 1996 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-04-12

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12 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, April 12, 1996

ii )A * : . . .oc.. ; ' '..,


By Laurie Mayk
Daily Staff Reporter
C hildhood friends speculate.
Acquaintances analyze chance
encounters. Colleagues wonder
what went wrong.
Through bits and pieces of memories and
handwriting samples they look for answers
to questions that have plagued the FBI for
18 years. But now it is closer to home. What
links Theodore John Kaczynski, a promis-
ing University mathematician, to the sketch
of a killer and a path of destruction?
Kaczynski's resume and the Unabomber legend col-
lide on the Ann Arbor campus with an impact large
enough to raise more than eyebrows.
When Kaczynski was first identified as a Unabomber
suspect last week, Ann Arbor FBI Director Greg
Stejskal confirmed the local FBI office has been work-
ing on the Unabomber case in conjunction with the San
Francisco task force for more than a month.
"It is a big puzzle, and there are pieces that fit in from
here," Stejskal said. "Our investigation was a factor;
there were some pieces we were able to supply."
While Kaczynski was earning a doctorate in mathe-
matics and completing a teaching fellowship at the
University, two of the Unabomber's future victims
were also on campus. Years later, University psycholo-
gy Prof. James McConnell and Vanderbilt Prof. Patrick
Fischer, the son of University math Prof. Carl Fischer,
were targeted by the bomber.
McConnell, who died in 1990, was a controversial
figure in the national spotlight and was openly criti-
cized for his research and theories concerning technol-
ogy and behavior modification. A Michigan Daily arti-
cle published after the McConnell bombing quoted a
source who speculated the bomb was sent by an oppo-
nent of McConnell's theories.
Prof. Charles Morris said the bombing may have
stemmed from "the concern about technology and
behavior modification: What (the perpetrator) poten-
tially could have seen as a tool for controlling other
Following the bombing, FBI agents showed
McConnell the now-infamous Unabomber composite
sketch, but he said the image didn't look familiar.
McConnell was not injured in the blast, but his assis-
tant, Nicklaus Suino, suffered flesh wounds.
"I think the bomber feels - forgive me for saying
this - like the judge in Alabama who banned the
books. feels like he has the moral right to impose his
standards on other people. And if he doesn't like it, he
can kill them," McConnell said in an article published
in The Ann Arbor News in 1985.
References to the conformity of the human race dis-
cussed in McConnell's research and essays can be
found in the Unabomber's Manifesto.

"Somebody who is very concerned about the human-
istic side of human nature ... would probably find this
very distasteful," Morris said.
The Manifesto also outlined the inevitable destruc-
tion of humanity if the power and dependence on tech-
nology continues to expand.
"Human freedom mostly will have vanished, because
individuals and small groups will be impotent vis-a-vis
large organizations armed with supertechnology and an
aresenal of advanced psychological and biological


tools for manipulating human beings
states the manifesto.
Several bombing victims linked to
the Unabomber had expertise in com-
puter and technology fields.
McConnell's background fits
this criteria for a target as
well; he took a deep interest
in the new wave of micro-
Tracing the
Unabomber's explo-
sive past,
McConnell said "he
got annoyed with
computers. He got
annoyed and keeps
trying to be a
Luddite and blow
them up or the peo-
ple associated with
them. I presume I
was a target because
he had read some-
thing I had written," 4
McConnell said' in }<
the interview with the z


easily crossed paths with the suspect. Fischer's father
was a math professor at the University during
Kaczynski's stint as a graduate student in the depart-
ment. Fischer reported visiting his father, now
deceased, on campus occasionally.
Prof. Carl Fischer, who was employed jointly by the
Business and LSA schools, was involved with actuarial
studies at the University and in programs reaching as
far as the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He
taught "long-term actuarial mathemat-
ics" courses, said Prof. Cecil Nesbitt.
who worked with Fischer at the
University. Actuarial mathe-
matics is used in private life
;. insurance, pension funds and
social insurance, as well
as fire, car and life
insurance, Nesbitt
- * said.
U n i e s s
Kaczynski took




Years after the attack,
Morris speculated it was
McConnell's theories on
human behavior that -
spurned the bombing.
"It was probably his behav-
ioralist orientation that this
person somehow found out
about," Morris said last week.;
Even if Kaczynski had no direct
contact with McConnell at the
University, McConnell's theories were
readily available and prevalent in the nation-
al media. A 1982 People magazine article
profiling McConnell highlighted his unconven-
tional teaching methods and controversial textbook.
"Understanding Human Behavior."
McConnell also published an essay the month before
the bombing, charging university professors with a
responsibility to "practice what we preach" in the realm
of behavior modification.
Although there is no evidence Kaczynski had direct
contact with the Unabomber's other University-con-
nected victim, FBI agents list Patrick Fischer as one of
four victims, including McConnell, who could have

some of those'
x courses, he
wouldn't have
had contact
with Prof.
SC a r l )}
Nesbitt said. "I
doubt if
x got across to
the Business
W h e n
Kaczynski left
Ann Arbor in
1967 for a job at
the University of
B e r k e I e y ,
University faculty
in contact with
him had high
aspirations for
their "meticulous
and neat" student.
"He won the prize for the best
dissertation in the department," said
mathematics Prof. Peter Duren. "He was
considered to have a lot of promise."
Kaczynski's research was impressive, but lacked
an understanding of more central mathematical appli-
cations. Duren said. All of Kaczynski's research cen-
tered on the mathematical idea of boundary functions.
"Allen Shields (Kaczynski's thesis adviser) tried to
persuade him, even while he was still at the University,
to widen his horizons a bit, to broaden his interests ..
so that he could have a broader basis for future
research," Duren said.
Duren said the job at Berkeley was a "plum position"
and that members of the department hoped the atmos-
phere would curb some of Kaczynksi's stubborness

about his field.
"The hope was that he would broaden out some and
... apply his talents to things that were a little more cen-
tral," Duren said.
The high expectations molded by diligent work and a
completed dissertation never came to fruition. When
Shields inquired about his former student to a friend at
Berkeley, he learned of Kaczynski's sudden departure
from the department in 1969 and from the field of math-
"He submitted his resignation last year quite out of
the blue," wrote John Addison, who served as chair of
Berkeley's math department at the time of Kaczynski's
employment there, in response to the inquiry.
Addison said attempts to convince the tenure-track
assistant professor to stay were in vain.
"I do have some regret that if I had been more per-
suasive there's a chance that he would have stayed and
this wouldn't have happened," Addison said this week.
In his letter, Addison called Kaczynski "pathologi-
cally shy" and noted he didn't socialize with others in
the department.
"The pathologically shy' probably came from a
combination of observations - of my own observa-
tions and those who were closer to him mathematical-
ly," Addison said.
Although this image coincides with the descriptions
of a reclusive, quiet character offered by colleagues and
acquaintances, Addison said there is one characteristic
he is surprised to hear pinned to Kaczynski.
Addison said he found a sample of Kacznski's hand-
writing on a report describing his field of specialty -
classical analysis.
"It was not all that neat ... he just sort of scratched
out part of it," Addison said.
With his resignation in 1969, he abandoned a career
in mathematics but left traces of his work in obscure
mathematics journals and an 80-page dissertation on
boundary functions at the University.
"He said he didn't know what he wanted to do,"
Addison said. "He could have been lying, but I suspect
he wasn't lying. I suspect it was an honest decision."
Duren said he suspects Kaczynski's departure was
sparked by a realization that after two years at one of
the most respected mathematics research universities,
"he really wasn't leading anywhere."
"He didn't really leave this narrow area (of study); he
stayed with it," Duren said. "After a while it just went
Kaczynski's presence in Berkeley provides two more
links with Unabomber victims. Hugh Scrutton, who
was killed by a bomb in 1985, attended classes at
Berkeley while Kaczynski was on the university pay-
roll. Scrutton's transcript includes a "History of
Mathematics" course, as well as classes in computer
science, anthropology and philosophy, the university
United Air Lines President Percy Wood, a member of
the Bay Area Air Pollution Control Board advisory
committee during Kaczynski's stay in California, was
injured by a bombing in 1980.
- Daily Staff Reporters Jeff Eldridge and Josh White
contributed to this report.



The following are the times and loca-
tions of the bombings the FBI has
linked to the Unabomber.
May 25, 1978: Northwestern
University. A police officer was injured
when a bomb was detonated.
May 9, 1979: Northwestern
University. One person injured.

June 13, 1985: No one was
injured in a blast at the Boeing
Co. in Washington.
May 15, 1985: Berkeley.
One injured at the university.
Nov. 15, 1985: University of
Michigan. One injured.



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