After years of speculation, the true identity of the mysterious person or group behind the Bitcoin revolution known as “Satoshi Nakamoto” has been revealed by Newsweek.
It turns out his name is, in fact, Satoshi Nakamoto.
A reporter tracked down the 64-year-old, a Japanese-American physicist and model train enthusiast, living under the name Dorian S. Nakamoto in a modest two-story house in suburban Los Angeles.
Nakamoto did not admit to being behind the phenomenon that, since its 2009 launch, has been hailed as a financial revolution despite scandals over its use in the drugs trade and money-laundering.
And he called the police when the magazine’s reporter knocked on his door.
But Newsweek said the man, whose quiet career involved classified work as a systems engineer for the US government and government contractors, tacitly acknowledged his role in creating the crypto-currency that has rocked the banking world.
“I am no longer involved in that, and I cannot discuss it,” he said. “It’s been turned over to other people.”
In a scoop heralding the relaunch of its print edition on Friday after two years only online, Newsweek said Nakamoto was born in Japan in 1949 and immigrated to the United States 10 years later.
He studied physics at California State Polytechnic University and worked for a number of companies, but has apparently not held a steady job since 2002.
He spends much of his time on his model train hobby, and has apparently not tapped the millions of dollars of Bitcoin wealth Newsweek says comes from authoring the computer code behind it.
His family, including two younger brothers who are also scientists, did not know of his link to Bitcoin.
“He’s a brilliant man,” his brother Arthur Nakamoto told Newsweek. “He’s very focused and eclectic in his way of thinking. Smart, intelligent, mathematics, engineering, computers. You name it, he can do it.”
But they described a man with a deep libertarian streak, intensely private and distrustful of the government and banks.
Ilene Mitchell, one of Nakamoto’s six children from two marriages, said he taught her while growing up to “not be under the government’s thumb.”
Nakamoto’s 2008 Bitcoin manifesto stressed the need for an online, electronic cash system that did not go through a financial institution, which requires both trust in the institution and payment for its role as an intermediary.
“What is needed is an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust, allowing any two willing parties to transact directly with each other,” he said.
Gavin Andresen, chief scientist of the Bitcoin Foundation, said he had corresponded online with a man called Satoshi Nakamoto over one year as they refined the Bitcoin code.
But they never spoke on the telephone and Andresen did not learn anything about his personal life.
“He went to great lengths to protect his anonymity,” Andresen told the magazine. “All we talked about was code.”
The currency’s success has made many wealthy: after trading for cents per Bitcoin for the first two years of its existence, in 2011 an online frenzy erupted and it hit $40 a coin in late 2012.
Then, last year investors and speculators poured in, driving it over $1,100 a coin before falling off to the current $650 level.
With the writers of the original code all having been paid in Bitcoin, Newsweek said Nakamoto is now likely worth $400 million.
Newsweek published a picture of Nakamoto and his home and car, a Toyota Corolla, in Temple City, California, east of downtown Los Angeles.
Readers fiercely blasted the author, Leah McGrath Goodman, for revealing the identity and whereabouts of someone who wanted to remain private.
But Goodman defended the article, saying via Twitter that “this man invented something that shaped the world.”
“We felt showing he lives humbly, despite his achievement, was both telling and inspiring.”