Gerlertner was a professor of computer science at Yale University who made important contributions to his discipline in the seventies and eighties. He is credited (along with Nicholas Carriero) as the inventor of tuple spaces, a programming concept originally created in the Linda programming language, which inspired similar ideas in several other languages, including Java, Lisp, Python, Ruby and .NET.
In June of 1993, he was the first person to receive a letter bomb from the newly active Unabomber, who had last bombed someone six years earlier. Gerlertner was badly injured by the bomb’s detonation, and although he later recovered, his right hand and eye sustained permanent damage. Gerlertner returned to studying and teaching after his convalescence, and the Unabomber was eventually caught a little under three years later. A violent anti-technologist, he had deliberately targeted Gerlertner and others.