This Man Did Not Invent Bitcoin

For much of its existence, the cryptocurrency company nChain was governed by a golden rule of office politics: It was not a good idea to challenge Craig Steven Wright, the chief science officer.

At nChain’s London offices, Dr. Wright, an Australian computer scientist, was treated as a sort of philosopher king. He wore three-piece suits and drove a Lamborghini. A middle manager would tape Dr. Wright’s ramblings about obscure technical matters and then share the recordings with a staff of researchers, who were instructed to turn his musings into patents.

In 2017, Martin Sewell, an nChain employee, circulated a skeptical memo documenting technical errors in a series of papers that Dr. Wright had published about economics and computer science. A manager called Mr. Sewell into his office and told him that he had to stop.

The deference to Dr. Wright “was just this extraordinary arrangement,” Mr. Sewell recalled. “Like he was some sort of god of everything.”

Indeed, Dr. Wright’s authority rested on a claim to a kind of divine significance — that he was the mysterious creator of Bitcoin, the original cryptocurrency.

In 2008, a person using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto published a white paper explaining the basics of Bitcoin, a clever idea that eventually became the foundation of a multitrillion-dollar industry. Then, as abruptly as he had emerged, he vanished. Satoshi, who’s known by his first name, controls an estimated 1.1 million Bitcoins, a $75 billion stash that has sat untouched for more than a decade.

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