Before he was one of America’s most notorious killers, ‘Unabomber’ Ted Kaczynski was a Harvard student

Some theorize his anti-technology views began to bud during his time in Cambridge

Years before he retreated into the Montana wilderness and orchestrated a 17-year bombing campaign that gripped Americans with fear each time a package arrived at their home or office, Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, who died in federal prison Saturday at 81, moved to Cambridge to attend Harvard College on a scholarship as a 16-year-old.

The man who would later be known as the Unabomber, responsible for killing three people and injuring 23 others from the late 1970s to the mid-’90s, skipped two grades (sixth and 11th) before entering the Ivy League college in 1958 as a brilliant but awkward student.

After his arrest in April 1996, his former roommates described him as a loner, who was always studying in his room and hardly said a word.

“He didn’t seem like someone I was afraid of or do anything that would make me anticipate him being violent,” Patrick McIntosh told the Globe in the days following his arrest.

Kaczynski lived in a small house at 8 Prescott St. during his first year. The house proctor, Francis Murphy, recalled Kaczynski as a lonely boy with poor hygiene, the New York Times reported in the month after his arrest.

The next year, he moved into Eliot House, a dormitory overlooking the Charles River. He lived there in a seven-man suite for three years, with McIntosh as one of his suitemates.

“Ted stands out only for being completely without relationship to anyone in the suite,” McIntosh said at the time. “I don’t recall more than 10 words being spoken by him.”

Kaczynski also had a reputation for blasting his trombone in his room, which was filthy, the smell of rotting food wafting out his door when he’d open it, McIntosh recalled.

“His room was an unholy mess, the worst mess I’ve ever seen in my life,” McIntosh told the Globe at the time. “Sometimes it smelled like he had left his lunch in there for weeks, and we’d complain about it” to house officials.

Another roommate, Keith Martin, told the Globe that his only contact with Kaczynski would come at night when he’d knock on Kaczynski’s door to ask him to stop banging the legs of his desk chair on the floor.

Despite his brilliance, Kaczynski earned average grades at Harvard and did not participate in activities outside his studies, according to the New York Times.

Some believe the pivotal turning point for Kaczynski and his ideology came during his four years at Harvard.

Alston Chase, an author who graduated from Harvard five years before Kaczynski, released a book in 2003 that argued Kaczynski was radicalized as a result of his participation in a three-year psychological study hosted by a Harvard professor, which centered on a brutal stress test, according to a Globe book review.

Chase, who died last August, argued that the traumatic experiment, now seen as unethical, helped inform Kaczynski’s budding anti-technology worldview.

While serving life in prison, Kaczynski contributed a bizarre entry to Harvard’s alumni report for the class of 1962 on its 50th anniversary in 2012.

Kaczynski listed his occupation as “prisoner” and his home address as the federal maximum security prison in Florence, Colo. Under the “awards” section, the listing read, “Eight life sentences, issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, 1998.”

The Harvard Alumni Association later apologized for the listing, and the “awards” section in particular, after the widow of one of Kaczynski’s victims spoke out against its inclusion in the class report.

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