Sir Edmund Percival Hillary

Sir Edmund Percival Hillary was a New Zealand mountaineer, explorer and philanthropist. Hillary was born to Percival Augustus Hillary and Gertrude Hillary in Auckland, Dominion of New Zealand on July 20th of 1919. In 1920 his family moved to Tuakau, after his father was given land there. His grandparents were early settlers in the northern part of Wairoa in the middle of the 19th century after emigrating from Yorkshire, England.

On May 29th of 1953, Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers confirmed as having reached the summit of Mount Everest. They were a part of the 9th British expedition to Everest, led by John Hunt. Hillary was named by Time as one of the 100 most influential people in the 20th century.

Hillary became interested in mountaineering while he was in secondary school, making his first major climb in 1939, reaching the summit of Mount Ollivier. He served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a navigator during WWII. Before the 1953 expedition to Everest, Hillary had been a part of the British reconnaissance expedition to the mountain in the year 1951, in addition to 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. Subsequently, he reached the North Pole, making him the first person to reach both poles and summit Everest.

Following his ascent of Everest, Hillary devoted the majority of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan Trust, which he founded. Through these efforts, many schools and hospitals were constructed in Nepal.

Upon the outbreak of WWII, Hillary applied to join the Royal New Zealand Air Force, but withdrew the application before it was considered due to him being “harassed by his religious conscience”. In 1943, the Japanese threat in the Pacific and the arrival of conscription finally undermined his pacifist inclination and Hillary joined the RNZAF as a navigator serving in No. 6 Squadron RNZAF and then No. 5 Squadron RNZAF on Catalina flying boats.

Image Caption: Head and shoulders portrait of Edmund Percival Hillary circa 1953. Taken by an unidentified photographer. Credit: TimofKingsland/Wikipedia