Sir Edmund Percival Hillary KG ONZ KBE (20 July 1919 – 11 January 2008) was a New Zealand mountaineer, explorer and philanthropist. On 29 May 1953, Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest. They were part of the ninth British expedition to Everest, led by John Hunt. Hillary was named by Time as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. He also reached the South Pole as part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, for which he led the New Zealand section, on 4 January 1958. His party was the first to reach the Pole overland since Amundsen in 1911 and Scott in 1912, and the first ever to do so using motor vehicles.
He served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a navigator during World War II. Prior to the 1953 Everest expedition, Hillary had been part of the British reconnaissance expedition to the mountain in 1951, as well as an unsuccessful attempt to climb Cho Oyu in 1952. As part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition he reached the South Pole overland in 1958. He subsequently reached the North Pole, making him the first person to reach both poles and summit Everest.
Hillary was born to Percival Augustus Hillary and Gertrude Hillary, née Clark, in Auckland, Dominion of New Zealand, on 20 July 1919. His family moved to Tuakau (south of Auckland) in 1920, after his father (who served at Gallipoli in the 15th North Auckland) was allocated land there. His grandparents were early settlers in northern Wairoa in the mid-19th century after emigrating from Yorkshire, England.
Hillary was educated at Tuakau Primary School and then Auckland Grammar School.He finished primary school two years early and at high school achieved average marks. He was initially smaller than his peers there and very shy so he took refuge in his books and daydreams of a life filled with adventure. His daily train journey to and from high school was over two hours each way, during which he regularly used the time to read. He gained confidence after he learned to box. At 16 his interest in climbing was sparked during a school trip to Mount Ruapehu. Though gangly at 6 ft 5 in (195 cm) and uncoordinated, he found that he was physically strong and had greater endurance than many of his tramping companions. He studied mathematics and science at the University of Auckland, and in 1939 completed his first major climb, reaching the summit of Mount Ollivier, near Aoraki/Mount Cook in the Southern Alps.
On 11 January 2008, Hillary died of heart failure at the Auckland City Hospital at around 9 am NZDT at the age of 88. His death was announced by New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark at around 11:20 am. She stated that his death was a "profound loss to New Zealand". His death was recognised by the lowering of flags to half-mast on all Government and public buildings and at Scott Base in Antarctica.
Sir Ed is also featured on the NZ $5 note.
EventsTrans Antarctic Expedition