Cryptographic pioneer and the first Bitcoin recipient, Hal Finney, died Thursday morning of ALS at 58 years of age, announced Coin Desk this afternoon.
Finney is renowned for his work in the PGP encryption software in the early 1990’s. He helped lead the way to anonymously sending messages with embedded instructions through the servers while maintaining secrecy of the original sender Internet protocol address. This led to the development of one of the earliest “remailers” that led to the anonymity software of Tor.
In 2009 he was one of the first programmers to receive from Satoshi Nakamoto an open source code. The P2P cryptology of Bitcoin was appealing to his track record of work. He had implemented a system called RPOW, reusable proof of work system. This was based on Adam Back’s Hashcash and is needed to code and implement a digital currency system. Without this code, Bitcoin could not be mined. as it is termed for its program code work.
Because Finney and Nakamoto did the first exchange of Bitcoin on the Bitcoin forum, rumors circled that Finney was Nakamoto. They were documented as beginning their Bitcoin conversation in 2008.
Finney was diagnosed in 2009 with ALS. Despite his limited life expectancy and incapacitated, he continued his work and led Bitcoin into the future.
Finney did a final post on Coin Desk in March 2013 and stated: “I’m pretty lucky overall. Even with the ALS, my life is very satisfying. But my life expectancy is limited. Those discussions about inheriting your bitcoins are of more than academic interest. My bitcoins are stored in our safe deposit box, and my son and daughter are tech savvy. I think they’re safe enough. I’m comfortable with my legacy.”
Finney’s legacy does not stop there. When he died early Thursday, his body was flown to the cryonics facility Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona. He wanted to cryopreserve his body, so centuries into the future he can be revived. It is meaningful to his beliefs that he continue his work in the future.
His body was drained of his fluids and replaced with a collection of chemicals that is termed M-22 at Alcor. The company’s information about the process is that the chemical compound is minimally toxic. It allows the tissues to remain in its integrity without forming ice crystals and destroying cell membranes.
Finney and his wife, Fran, decided twenty years ago to be cryonically frozen. She explains, "He’s always been optimistic about the future,” says Fran. “Every new advance, he embraced it, every new technology. Hal relished life, and he made the most of everything.”