- NAME: Edmund Hillary
- OCCUPATION: Athlete, Explorer, Philanthropist
- BIRTH DATE: July 20, 1919
- DEATH DATE: January 11, 2008
- EDUCATION: Tuakau Primary School, Auckland Grammar School, University of Auckland
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Auckland, New Zealand
- PLACE OF DEATH: Auckland, New Zealand
- Full Name: Edmund Percival Hillary
- AKA: Sir Edmund Hillary
- Nickname: Ed
- AKA: Edmund Hillary
Best Known For
20th century explorer and mountaineer Edmund Hillary was the first to reach the peak of Mt. Everest, along with fellow climber Tenzing Norgay.
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Edmund Hillary was born on July 20, 1919, in Auckland, New Zealand, and took up mountain climbing. In 1953 he became the first, along with Tibetan climber Tenzing Norgay, to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. Hillary later participated in expeditions to the South Pole and was among the first to reach the top of Mt. Herschel. He also cultivated resources for the people of Nepal. He died on January 11, 2008.
"Life's a bit like mountaineering—never look down."
"It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves."
Although he rose to great heights climbing Mt. Everest, Edmund Hillary described himself as "a small and rather lonely child." He was born Edmund Percival Hillary on July 20, 1919, in Auckland, New Zealand, to Gertrude and Percival Hillary. He was a shy child and studious, often buried in books, but by his late teens had grown to a gangly, towering 6'5". He discovered his love of climbing during a high school trip to Mount Ruapehu in New Zealand's Southern Alps.
Hillary's first major climb, at age 20, was Mount Ollivier, also in the Southern Alps. He studied math and science at the University of Auckland, but he also joined outdoor clubs, which fostered his interest in climbing as well as holistic health. Despite conscientious objections, he eventually joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force during World War II and suffered a serious burn in a boat accident.
But he had determined to climb Mount Everest, the world's highest peak, so returned to his love of mountain climbing after the war. Like their father before them, Hillary and his brother Rex became beekeepers, which allowed time to pursue the sport in the winter. He scaled New Zealand's highest peak in January 1948.
This gave him the credentials to join the 1951 British expedition to Everest. Although that failed, the ninth British expedition to Everest, in 1953, led by John Hunt, was successful. After the team carved a route through the Khumbu Icefall and the South Col, the first duo assigned by Hunt had to turn back due to exhaustion. So Hillary and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, who carried extra oxygen, were the first to summit the 29,029-foot peak on May 29, 1953, at 11:30 am.
They spent about 15 minutes at the top of the world, with Hillary photographing Norgay holding his ice ax strung with flags from Britain, India, Nepal and the United Nations. Norgay dug a hole and filled it with sweets while Hillary buried a crucifix.
The conquest of Everest was announced on the eve of Elizabeth II's coronation, and the new queen knighted Hillary when he returned to Britain.
Having achieved international fame as the first to climb Mt. Everest, Hillary took up exploration. He reached the South Pole by tractor on January 4, 1958, as leader of the New Zealand division of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition. He was among the first to scale Mt. Herschel in the Antarctic expedition of 1967.
In 1968, he traversed the wild rivers of Nepal on a jetboat. He did the same up the Ganges, from its mouth to its source in the Himalayas, in 1977. In 1985, Hillary and astronaut Neil Armstrong flew a small twin-engine plane to the North Pole, making Hillary the first person to stand at both poles and the summit of Everest, which was known as the Third Pole.
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Throughout the centuries, brave explorers have fearlessly traveled the globe and beyond to discover new lands, people, animal species, riches and glory. Ferdinand Magellan of Portugal proved the world is round with his mission to sail around the world. His fellow countryman Vasco da Gama commanded the first European ship around the southern tip of Africa to reach India by sea. Norseman Leif Eriksson is regarded as the first European to reach North America, nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus, who is credited with discovering the “New World” of the Americas. Juan Ponce de León scoured Puerto Rico and Florida in his quest for the fountain of youth. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark blazed new trails during their Corps of Discovery Expedition across the western half of the United States. Traveling to new heights of discovery were mountain climber Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach the peak of Mount Everest, and U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon. These intrepid explorers and more have made an indelible mark on human history. See all Explorers.
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