Cypherpunk Legend Timothy May Has Passed Away

Timothy C. May, cypherpunk legend and author of the “Crypto Anarchist Manifesto,” has passed away at the age 67.

AccessTimeIconDec 17, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 8:41 a.m. UTC

Timothy C. May, cypherpunk legend and author of the “Crypto Anarchist Manifesto,” has passed away at the age 67.

His passing was announced Saturday by Lucky Green, also a self-described cypherpunk, on Facebook, saying that his "dear friend" May had passed away earlier this week at his home in Corralitos, California.

“Death appears to be from natural causes pending autopsy. I.e. Tim did not die in a hail of bullets as so many who didn’t know Tim all that well and largely from his public writings had predicted,” Green wrote.

May is known for co-founding the “Cypherpunks" mailing list – "perhaps the single most effective pro-cryptography grassroots organization in history, together with Eric Hughes and John Gilmore in 1992,” as Green put it.

After retiring from tech giant Intel in 1986, May became influenced by early work on cryptocurrency by cryptographer David Chaum, and went on to write the “Crypto Anarchist Manifesto” in 1988, stating that “Computer technology is on the verge of providing the ability for individuals and groups to communicate and interact with each other in a totally anonymous manner.”

Displaying great prescience on how cryptography would ultimately come to the forefront of technology and society, he went on:

“Interactions over networks will be untraceable, via extensive re- routing of encrypted packets and tamper-proof boxes which implement cryptographic protocols with nearly perfect assurance against any tampering”

Most recently, in October, May penned a piece for CoinDesk, sharing his thoughts on the bitcoin white paper and the developing cryptocurrency space, saying "Satoshi [bitcoin's pseudonymous inventor] did a brilliant thing, but the story is far from over."

He further warned:

"I can’t speak for what Satoshi intended, but I sure don’t think it involved bitcoin exchanges that have draconian rules about KYC, AML, passports, freezes on accounts and laws about reporting 'suspicious activity' to the local secret police. There’s a real possibility that all the noise about 'governance,' 'regulation' and 'blockchain' will effectively create a surveillance state, a dossier society."

Correction: This article briefly displayed an incorrect image of Timothy May. CoinDesk apologizes for the error.

Timothy C. May image via CoinDesk archive


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