The FBI said the Unabomber they've been hunting was born and raised in Chicago and was familiar with university life, especially with life at the University of California, Berkeley.

But although Ted Kaczynski fit the profile in several key areas, FBI agents say the 53-year-old Chicago-born former Berkeley math professor was never listed as a potential suspect until his family turned him in."His name never came up," said a retired FBI agent familiar with the massive 18-year hunt for the Unabomber. The former agent is bewildered how Kacsynski was overlooked - especially since the probes concentrated on anyone with connections in Chicago and Berkeley. "He was never on any list I ever saw."

Based on evidence gathered from the spree of 16 bombings that began in Chicago in 1978, and on a 35,000-word manuscript the Unabomber wrote that was published last year, FBI agents put together a profile of a suspect hunted by some 200 federal agents from the Postal Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, as well as squads of local police across the country.

The FBI even boasted purchasing a highly advanced computer system to sort through more than 12 million bytes of information, including enrollment records from high schools in Illinois and California and 20,000 tips from the public called in to a toll-free phone line.

According to a 1995 profile, FBI agents concluded they were looking for "a recluse, white man in his late 30's or 40's with at least a high school education. He is familiar with university life, too. He is a neat dresser with a meticulously organized life, probably likes to make lists, and is probably quiet and an ideal neighbor. He has low self-esteem, most likely has had problems dealing with women - because of his physical flaws, either real or perceived. If he does have a relationship, it would be with a younger woman."

After the Unabomber released his "manifesto" last summer, the FBI combed through possible clues in the manifesto to further conclude the suspect was born and raised in the Morton Grove suburb of north Chicago, attended school in nearby Skokie or Maine Township, and probably attended classes at Northwestern University in Evanston but did not graduate from there.

The FBI felt the links with Chicago's northern suburbs were so strong that agents set up a special Chicago task force to interview high school teachers and comb through yearbooks in hopes of locating a promising suspect. The first four of the Unabomber's targets were in the Chicago area, although computer experts and airline executives in Berkeley and Utah were later targets.

At the height of the probe last year, the FBI said they had 200 people listed as possible suspects, some of whom were put under 24-hour surveillance.

But Kaczynski wasn't one of them, although he was born in a leafy southwestern Chicago suburb - Evergreen Park instead of Morton Grove. He was one of five National Merit Scholars to graduate in 1958 from Evergreen Park Community High School after completing his courses in three years.

He received an undergraduate degree in mathematics from Harvard University in 1962, and his masters and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1966. He then worked as a mathematics professor at Berkeley from 1967 to 1969, before resigning in 1969. Investigators believe he was disenchanted with the leftist politics of Berkeley, then rocked with anti-Vietnam War protests, and moved to Montana to begin a solitary life shortly afterwards.

In the manifesto - a diatribe against modern technology and computers - the Unabomber provided many tantalizing clues to his identity, including references to the writings of Christopher Zeeman, a little-known British mathematics professor whose "catastrophe theory" attempts to translate social turmoil into mathematical equations.

He also cited the works of University of Maryland Prof. Ted Robert Gurr, author of "Violence in America: Historical and Comparative Perspectives," and Joseph Needham, an expert on Chinese technology.

In their efforts to track down the Unabomber, the FBI even conducted a daunting and fruitless search of library records to find anyone who checked out those books in the San Francisco and Chicago areas.

Justice Department sources said Kacsynski didn't come into focus as a suspect until the agency was approached two months ago by members of his family, who said they discovered some materials while cleaning the Kaczynski home to prepare it for sale.

That brought the spotlight on the hermit's log cabin Kaczynski built in Lincoln, Mont., where neighbors told reporters they often spotted Kaczynski wearing sunglasses and a hooded zip-up T-shirt that matches the frequently published FBI composite sketch of the Unabomber.

Louis Bertram, a retired FBI agent who worked on the Unabomber case, said he's convinced Kaczynski is the man he sought.

"I am a little surprised he so perfectly matches the profile," Bertram said.