Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?

Everything we know about the real identity of Bitcoin’s inventor

Baanx BXX
Published in
5 min readAug 3, 2021


Satoshi Nakamoto on June 3rd, 2009, mined the very first Bitcoin.

The inventor had revealed the creation to a tiny online community of cryptography-obsessed computer scientists and hackers two months earlier. In that scene, Satoshi was already a familiar name — if not a real one. Years before the world heard a peep about Bitcoin, someone using the Satoshi pseudonym had been posting to message boards and emailing fellow developers, never identifying a location, a nationality, or even a real name. Satoshi released Bitcoin and saw it begin to catch on, and then — in April 2011 — sent an email to a developer friend saying, “I’ve moved on to other things.”

After that, Satoshi disappeared into thin air.

Unanswered questions

The question of the real identity of Bitcoin’s creator is one of the greatest modern mysteries. Who was Satoshi Nakamoto? Why that name? And where did Satoshi go? Beyond having invented an entirely new kind of money that has gone on to achieve a market cap of more than $1 trillion, Satoshi is widely believed to hold more than a million Bitcoin, which would be worth billions of dollars.

(Note: In some of the early-Bitcoin history portions of this story, we refer to Satoshi as “he” or “him” because the people Satoshi was communicating with at the time presumed Bitcoin’s creator to be a young man. But, of course, Satoshi’s gender is one of the unknowns. Another is whether Bitcoin’s inventor worked alone; some experts suspect that Satoshi is a group of developers.)

Following the breadcrumb trail

Satoshi left clues, they can be found in the code and messages he wrote between 2008 to 2011. The entire output, numbering just a few hundred total messages that mostly consist of posts to a forum he created called BitcoinTalk in 2009, has been meticulously catalogued like a sacred text. At this point, millions of people have pored over Satoshi’s words, but — when they were first written — they were mostly read by a few dozen hermetic members of the Cryptography Mailing List made up of programmers who specialise in inventing techniques for secure communication. Many on the mailing list identified as “cypherpunks” who advocated the use of cryptography to bring about social and political change.

Journalists, hackers, and intelligence agencies have all scrutinised the breadcrumbs Satoshi left behind in the hopes of divining the inventor of Bitcoin’s identity. Though Satoshi made a point of never sharing any personal details in his communications, he did once describe himself (in a profile on a peer-to-peer forum) as a 37-year-old man living in Japan — a fact that pretty much nobody believes.

So, where was he actually from?

A potential clue

Satoshi left a potential Easter egg in the metadata of the Genesis block — the very first Bitcoin ever mined: “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.” The text comes from a headline in that day’s The London Times. Satoshi also made liberal use of Britishisms like “favour,” “maths,” “flat” (his apartment), and the phrase “bloody hard.” All of which would point to the inventor as hailing from or being a resident of the United Kingdom — unless Satoshi had been devising red herrings since his earliest days of conceiving Bitcoin.

Researchers, poring over timestamps from Satoshi’s various online activities, narrowed the Bitcoin creator’s likely timezones to the UK (GMT), US Eastern (EST), or the US Pacific (PST).

Satoshi may wish to remain anonymous for a good reason…

If the real Satoshi lives and breathes, there are some compelling reasons to stay hidden. The US government has a well-established track record of prosecuting individuals audacious enough to invent a competitor to the dollar. As The New Yorker reported, the FBI has declared it to be “a violation of federal law for individuals… to create private coin or currency systems to compete with the official coinage and currency of the United States.” Federal prosecutors pursued a range of charges against the founders of a startup called e-Gold in 2007, claiming that their outfit didn’t explicitly prevent money laundering or other crimes.

Assuming Bitcoin’s creator is alive, Satoshi could be on track to becoming the richest human being on the planet. But there’s one more fascinating twist. Because the Bitcoin blockchain is an open ledger, it’s possible for researchers to plausibly identify much of the Bitcoin Satoshi mined in the early days of his invention. After the very beginning, when Satoshi sent a few Bitcoin to early testers like Hal Finney, Satoshi’s coins seem to have never been sent or spent or capitalised on in any way. His holdings have grown to be worth potentially tens of billions of dollars over the past decade or so — and the share of money Satoshi quite literally made has sat untouched as a vast cache of so-called “lost coins” that aren’t in circulation.

Satoshi’s legacy

So who is Satoshi? One of the prime suspects? One of the many other people that have been identified as Bitcoin’s creator over the years? Someone nobody has ever suspected? Is Satoshi alive or dead? A single inventor or a team? As the years have passed, it seems increasingly likely that we’ll never know the answers.

What we’re left with is Satoshi’s trillion-dollar creation, a small cache of communications, and maybe one final gift; “Lost coins only make everyone else’s coins worth slightly more” Satoshi wrote in response to a 2010 BitcoinTalk thread about users losing access to their wallets. “Think of it as a donation to everyone” he concluded.

Unfortunately, the story of the quest for Nakamoto’s true identity leaves more questions than it answers. There are several contenders, including Hal Finney, Adam Back, Wei Dai, Ralph Merkle, Nick Szabo, and Timothy C. May — but none have come proved a certain match.

In the end, the mystery and anonymity surrounding Bitcoin’s inventor add to the decentralised and distributed ethos of the entire network: that no one person can — or should — be in a position of greater authority than anyone else on the network.

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