Unabomber: A Brilliant Mathematician

Wonder of Numbers by Clifford A. Pickover

Ted Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, was a mathematician who rose swiftly to academic heights even as he became an emotional cripple, loner, and murderer.  Kaczynski’s 25-year self imposed exile in the Montana woods was particularly appropriate for this man who had always been alone.  The May 26, 1996, New York Times noted that the cabin “suited this genius with gifts for solitude, perseverance, secrecy and meticulousness, for penetrating the mysteries of mathematics and the dangers of technology, but never love, never friendship.”  The remoteness of the cabin was probably as much a means of limiting others’ access to him as it was a symbol of freedom.  Before he became a hermit, Kaczynski wrote several notable papers on the mathematical properties of functions in circles and boundary functions.  Although his IQ was measured as 170, he exhibited many odd characteristics, excessive (pathological) shyness, fascination and body sounds, a metronomic habit of rocking, and frequent concerns about germs, infections, and other health matters.  His room at school stank of rotting food and was piled high with trash.  After teaching for 2 years and publishing mathematical papers that impressed his peers and put him on a tenure track at one of the nation’s most prestigious universities [Harvard], he suddenly quit, spent nearly half his life in the woods, and killed three strangers and injured 22 others.  Throughout his life, Kaczynski found it painful to make errors and corrected minor errors in others.  He shut himself up in his bedroom for days at a time and seemed incapable of sympathy, human insight, and simply connections with people.  Although Kaczynski does not have the eminence of Erdos, Ramanujan, or Pythagoras, his mathematics papers were sufficiently complex to warrant his inclusion on this brief list [of notable mathematicians].

Among his erudite mathematical credits are these:

1. Kaczynski, T. J. (1967) Boundary Functions (doctoral dissertation).

2. Kaczynski, T. J. (1964) Another proof of Wedderburn’s theorem.

3. Kaczynski, T. J. (1964) Distributivity and (-1) x = -x (proposed problem).

4. Kaczynski, T. J. (1965) Boundary functions for functions defined in a disk.

5. Kaczynski, T. J. (1965) Distributivity and (-1) x = -x (problem and solution).

6. Kaczynski, T. J. (1966) On a boundary property of continuous functions  

7. Kaczynski, T. J. (1969) Note on a problem of Alan Sutcliffe.

8. Kaczynski, T. J. (1969) The set of curvilinear convergence of a continuous function defined in the interior of a cube.

9. Kaczynski, T. J. (1969) Boundary functions and sets of curvilinear convergence for continuous functions.

10. Kaczynski, T. J. (1969) Boundary functions for bounded harmonic functions.

As a demonstration of his adroitness in the realm of mathematics, the following is Ted Kaczynski’s proof of Wedderburn’s Theorem (see #2 above):

Proof:  Let F be our finite skew field, F* its multiplicative group.  Let S be any Sylow subgroup F*, of order, say, P^a.  Choose an element g of order p in the center of S.  If some h in S generates a subgroup of order p different from that generated by g, then g and h generate a commutative field containing more than p roots of the equation x^p = 1, an impossibility.  Thus S contains only one subgroup of order p and hence is either a cyclic or general quaternion group.   Q.E.D.


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11 Responses to “Unabomber: A Brilliant Mathematician”

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    I think it is defeintely worth noting that he partook in project MKUltra a psychological test created by the CIA, and it is this that is believed to have been the catalyst of his life as Unabomber.

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