Polish-born British author Joseph Conrad (Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski) was born on December 3, 1857. At age 17, he became a seaman for 16 years and learned English while on a British trade boat. His life at sea formed the basis of much of his fiction, including Heart of Darkness (1902), inspired by his service on a Congo River steamboat. He became a British subject in 1886, left the sea and began writing in the late 1890s. His most celebrated works, including Lord Jim (1900), Nostromo (1904) and The Secret Agent (1907), explore complex issues of character, personal choice and morality in a universe Conrad described as an indifferent knitting machine. The Secret Agent addresses dark issues of anarchism, espionage, terrorism and social exploitation. Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski perversely claimed it as an influence.