Harvard's Experiment on the Unabomber, course of '62

one odd footnote to Kaczynski's class reunion.

Posted might 25, 2012 | the evaluation by Matt Huston


The news that Ted Kaczynski was included in the 50th anniversary alumni directory has roiled the class reunion. Far better known via his nom de plume (or “guerre,” as he could have it) together the “Unabomber,” Kaczynski noted his occupation as “prisoner,” his awards together “eight life sentences” and his publishing as his 2010 declaration “Technological Slavery.” How and also whether his responses to the class questionnaire should have actually been published has actually caused a most finger-pointing and reflection in Cambridge. However his crimes were no joke. Kaczynski’s letter bombs killed three people and maimed an additional 23.

You are watching: Harvard and the making of the unabomber


For every the reporting about the 50th anniversary reunion dustup, an odd twist to the Harvard Unabomber story has actually not been mentioned: during Kaczynski’s sophomore year in ~ Harvard, in 1959, he was recruited for a emotional experiment that, unbeknownst to him, would last three years. The experiment affiliated psychological torment and also humiliation, a story I incorporate in my publication Mind Wars: mind Research and the armed forces in the 21st Century.


The Harvard research aimed in ~ psychic deconstruction by humiliating undergraduates and thereby resulting in them come experience major stress. Kaczynski’s anti-technological fixation and also his critique itself had some roots in the Harvard curriculum, i beg your pardon emphasized the supposed objectivity of science compared with the subjectivity the ethics. Before his arrest, that demanded the The Washington Post and The new York Times publish a 35,000-word manifesto dubbed “Industrial culture and that is Future,” a file that expressed his approach of science and also culture.


Kaczynski believes that the Industrial change was the font of person enslavement. “The device does not and also cannot exist to meet human needs,” the wrote. “Instead, that is human habits that needs to be modified come fit the needs of the system.” The only means out is to damage the fruit of industrialization, to encourage the return of “WILD nature,” in spite of the potentially negative consequences of law so, he wrote.


After Harvard, Kaczynski earned a Ph.D. In math from the university of Michigan, then taught briefly at the college of California, Berkeley, after which he dropped out of society. Because that 18 years, making use of homemade explosive devices, the terrorized those he perceived as agents of antihuman technology, specifically anyone connected with colleges or airlines. By the moment he was arrested in ~ his far Montana cabin in 1996, Kaczynski left behind a trace of mayhem.


The man who conducted the humiliation experiment to be the brilliant and complicated Harvard psychologist Henry A. Murray. Despite his fame has actually diminished since his death, Murray was among the most necessary scientists the his day, the pioneer that personality tests the are now a routine component of commercial management and also psychological assessments. It is not too lot to say that modern psychology would be far different without his contributions. (Full disclosure: Murray to be a close friend and also colleague of my father"s, however we knew nothing of this experiment.)


Henry Murray was a native brand-new York blue blood who came to be a Boston Brahmin. He attended the ideal schools, Groton and also Harvard, and earned one M.D. From Columbia and also a doctorate in biochemistry indigenous Cambridge University. The dropped medicine and also natural science for psychology after analysis Carl Jung, posting a landmark job-related in 1938 referred to as Explorations in Personality. prior to World battle II, the U.S. Government asked him to perform a psychological profile that Hitler, and during the war he aided the Office that Strategic solutions (later to end up being the CIA) to evaluate its agents. In the 1950s, Murray’s personality test, the object apperception test, or TAT, was offered to display screen Harvard students.

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In yet an additional odd twisted that mirrors why background is stranger than fiction, when Kaczynski to be undergoing those humiliation experiment a young Harvard researcher named Timothy Leary was beginning his research career ~ above psychedelics. In 1960 Leary reverted from a vacation in Mexico with a suitcase full of magic mushrooms. Murray himself is stated to have supervised psychoactive drug experiments, consisting of Leary’s. According to Alston Chase, writer of Harvard and the Unabomber, Leary dubbed Murray “the magician of personality evaluate who, together OSS chief psychologist, had actually monitored army experiments on brainwashing and sodium amytal interrogation.”


These curious historical intersections remind us that, as William Faulkner put it in another context, “The past isn’t dead; it’s not even past.”


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Jonathan D. Moreno, Ph.D., is the David and also Lyn Silfen university Professor of values at the university of Pennsylvania.


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