His educational background below.
Kaczynski attended Evergreen Park Community High School where he excelled academically. He played the trombone in the marching band and was a member of the mathematics, biology, coin, and German clubs but was regarded as an outsider by his classmates. In 1996, a former classmate said: "He was never really seen as a person, as an individual personality ... He was always regarded as a walking brain, so to speak." During this period, Kaczynski became intensely interested in mathematics, spending hours studying and solving advanced problems. He became associated with a group of likeminded boys interested in science and mathematics, known as the "briefcase boys" for their penchant for carrying briefcases. One member of this group recalled Kaczynski as "the smartest kid in the class ... just quiet and shy until you got to know him. Once he knew you, he could talk and talk."
Throughout high school, Kaczynski was ahead of his classmates academically. Placed in a more advanced mathematics class, he soon mastered the material. He skipped the eleventh grade, and by attending summer school was able to graduate at age 15. He was one of his school's five National Merit finalists, and was encouraged to apply to Harvard College. He entered Harvard on a scholarship in 1958 at the age of 16. A high school classmate later said that Kaczynski was emotionally unprepared: "They packed him up and sent him to Harvard before he was ready ... He didn't even have a driver's license."
During his first year at Harvard, Kaczynski lived at 8 Prescott Street, which was designed to accommodate the youngest, most precocious freshmen in a small, intimate living space. The next three years he lived at Eliot House. One of his suitemates there recalled that he avoided contact with others and "would just rush through the suite, go into his room, and slam the door." Another suitemate said Kaczynski was reserved, but regarded him as a genius: "It's just an opinion – but Ted was brilliant." Other students stated Kaczynski was less socially averse than these descriptions imply; an Eliot House resident who dined with Kaczynski at times called him "very quiet, but personable ... He would enter into the discussions maybe a little less so than most [but] he was certainly friendly."
Kaczynski earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from Harvard in 1962. He finished with an above-average 3.12 GPA.
As a sophomore, Kaczynski participated in a study described by author Alston Chase as a "purposely brutalizing psychological experiment", led by Harvard psychologist Henry Murray. Subjects were told they would be debating personal philosophy with a fellow student, and were asked to write essays detailing their personal beliefs and aspirations. The essays were turned over to an anonymous attorney, who in a later session would confront and belittle the subject – making "vehement, sweeping, and personally abusive" attacks – using the content of the essays as ammunition, while electrodes monitored the subject's physiological reactions. These encounters were filmed, and subjects' expressions of anger and rage were later played back to them repeatedly. The experiment ultimately lasted three years, with someone verbally abusing and humiliating Kaczynski each week. In total, Kaczynski spent 200 hours as part of the study.
Kaczynski's lawyers later attributed his hostility towards mind control techniques to his participation in Murray's study. Some sources have suggested that Murray's experiments were part of the Central Intelligence Agency's research into mind control, known as Project MKUltra. Chase and others have also suggested that this experience may have motivated Kaczynski's criminal activities, while philosopher Jonathan D. Moreno has said that, though "Kaczynski's anti-technological fixation and his critique itself had some roots in the Harvard curriculum," Kaczynski's later bombing campaign can "by no means be laid at Harvard's door".
Kaczynski as an assistant professor at UC Berkeley in 1967
In 1962, Kaczynski enrolled at the University of Michigan, where he earned his master's and doctoral degrees in mathematics in 1964 and 1967, respectively. Michigan was not his first choice for postgraduate education; he had also applied to the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Chicago, both of which accepted him but offered him no teaching position or financial aid. Michigan offered him an annual grant of $2,310 (equivalent to $18,700 in 2017) and a teaching post.
At the University of Michigan, Kaczynski specialized in complex analysis, specifically geometric function theory. His intellect and drive impressed his professors. "He was an unusual person. He was not like the other graduate students. He was much more focused about his work. He had a drive to discover mathematical truth," said professor Peter Duren. "It is not enough to say he was smart," said George Piranian, another of his Michigan mathematics professors. At Michigan, Kaczynski earned 5 Bs and 12 As in his 18 courses. However, in 2006, he said his "memories of the University of Michigan are NOT pleasant ... the fact that I not only passed my courses (except one physics course) but got quite a few As, shows how wretchedly low the standards were at Michigan."
In 1967, Kaczynski's dissertation Boundary Functions won the Sumner B. Myers Prize for Michigan's best mathematics dissertation of the year. Allen Shields, his doctoral advisor, called it "the best I have ever directed", and Maxwell Reade, a member of his dissertation committee, said "I would guess that maybe 10 or 12 men in the country understood or appreciated it." Kaczynski published two journal articles related to his dissertation, and three more after leaving Michigan.
In late 1967, the 25-year-old Kaczynski became the youngest assistant professor of mathematics in the history of University of California, Berkeley, where he taught undergraduate courses in geometry and calculus. His teaching evaluations suggest he was not well-liked by his students: he seemed uncomfortable teaching, taught straight from the textbook and refused to answer questions. Without any explanation, Kaczynski resigned on June 30, 1969. At the time, the chairman of the mathematics department, J. W. Addison, called this a "sudden and unexpected" resignation.
In 1996, vice chairman at Berkeley, Calvin C. Moore said, given Kaczynski's "impressive" dissertation and publications, he "could have advanced up the ranks and been a senior member of the faculty today." A 1996 Los Angeles Times article stated: "The field that Kaczynski worked in doesn't really exist today [according to mathematicians interviewed about his work]. Most of its theories were proven in the 1960s, when Kaczynski worked in it." According to mathematician Donald Rung, "[Kaczynski] probably would have gone on to some other area if he were to stay in mathematics."