Kaczynski Victim to Speak at U for Organick Lecture

David Gerlenter lost part of his hand eight years ago because he loves computers.

Gerlenter, a professor of computer science at Yale University and the victim of an attack by the Unabomber eight years ago, will deliver a public lecture at the U Wednesday and Thursday.

In the summer of 1993, Gerlenter lost part of his hand when a bomb sent by Ted Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber, exploded in his office.

Gary Lindstrom, a professor of computer science at the U and the chair of the Organick Memorial Fund, has known Gerlenter for 20 years.

“He’s always had a vision of computers supporting the way people live,” Lindstrom said.

In the 1970s, Gerlenter played a major role in the creation of peer-to-peer computing by developing the fundamental idea behind such programs.

Lindstrom described peer-to peer computing as computers that work cooperatively with one another. Programs such as Napster and the chat program AIM are examples of such a method.

With the advent and rise of the Internet in the late 1980s and through the 1990s, peer to-peer computing gave way to computers connected by central servers.

“However, the idea [of peer to-peer] computing is coming back,” Lindstrom said.

In addition to his work with peer-to-peer computing, Gerlenter has been interested in computers that are used in the arts and as a “liberating tool” for people.

In 1993, The New York Times Sunday Magazine ran one of Gerlenter’s articles, which the Unabomber saw. It was this article that prompted him to send a bomb to Gerlenter.

“I think it was kind of a random thing. He [the Unabomber] targeted physicists and other scientists. He was fundamentally anti-technology, and that’s what I think prompted the attack,” Lindstrom said.

Following the bombing, Gerlenter became more interested in societal issues, Lindstrom said.

“He’s more committed to developing technology that fits into people’s lives and lets them live how they want to live. I think as a result of his work and experiences, he’s even more committed to his work,” Lindstrom said.

The 16th Annual Organick Memorial Lecture begins tomorrow night at 7:30 in Room 104 of the Engineering and Mines Classroom Building.

On Thursday afternoon, Gerlenter will be on hand in Room 105 of the Engineering and Mines Classroom Building to wrap up the lecture series.

The lecture is named after Elliott I. Organick, a professor of computer science at the U for 15 years. The Organick Endowment was established following his death in 1985.

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