At the height of his fame, Scot John Law was the French Controller General of Finance, the so-called father of finance, and the man who dreamed up paper money and the credit economy. The rest of the time he was a gambler living off his winnings, eloping with another's man's wife, and escaping to Amsterdam, to narrowly avoid execution for killing a man in a duel.
Law's trajectory set the scene for our own contemporary boom-to-bust economy. In the teeth of opposition from powerful vested interests, Law won backing to set up the first French bank in 1716 to issue paper currency. He created a trading company that made its shareholders so wealthy that a new term - millionaires - was coined to describe them. But when the bubble burst and speculation gave way to panic, he fled to Venice with his creditors at his heels, and died there a poor man.