Hal Finney has been a very important figure for Bitcoin; Finney was the first person, other than Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin, to mine a Bitcoin block and was also the first one to ever receive a transaction. Finney got introduced to the Bitcoin whitepaper when it first was announced to a cryptography mailing list he was part of. He proceeded to mine block number 78 and report bugs in the implementation to Satoshi, that satoshi then went on to correct.
Before Bitcoin Finney worked on the P.G.P protocol, a privacy technology, because he was concerned about the ability of corporations and governments to spy on citizens.
The original author of P.G.P, Philip Zimmerman, became a target for federal prosecutors. The prosecutors believed that P.G.P. broke United States laws against exporting military grade encryption software. While Zimmerman was under investigation, Finney kept working on the technology. Once the investigation was concluded in 1996, with no charges filed, P.G.P became a company and Finney was the first employee hired.
In late 2008 he received an email from Satoshi Nakamoto, through a cryptography mailing list; the email contained the Bitcoin white paper. Finney was ideologically interested in the paper; he had also already tried himself making a proof of work digital currency. In January 2009 Finney was the first person other than Satoshi to mine Bitcoin; he also was the receiver of the first Bitcoin transaction and reported a few bugs to Satoshi, which Satoshi then fixed. Shortly after, Finney turned off his machine because it made to much noise and heat, and then went on with his life and forgot about Bitcoin.
At the beginning of 2009 Finney was in the best shape of his life and had run many half marathons, and was training for a full marathon. But Something happened; Finney started getting weaker. His body began to fail, he started slurring his speech, losing strength in his hands, and his legs became slow to recover. Later in the year he was caught by surprise when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic later sclerosis (A.L.S.), a neurodegenerative disease that kills motor neurons in the body. Finney kept working at the P.G.P Corporation until, in 2011, he had to retire because of voice and fatigue problems.
After his retirement he kept operating a computer and working on Bitcoin using a commercial eye tracker. His coding became 50 times slower, but he was still able to write some significant code for the Bitcoin protocol.
Hal Finney died at age 58 on August 28th 2014, leaving behind a wife, a son, and a daughter.Finney got his body cryogenically frozen in hopes that one day a cure for his disease will be found.