Sir Edmund Hillary
Leader Ross Sea Party TAE and IGY.
KBE, Polar Medal, Hubbard Medal National Geographic Society, Commander Merite Sportif, Star of Nepal 1st Class, US Cullum Geographical Gold Medal, Royal Geographic Society’s Founder Medal, Explorers Club Medal. Educated Auckland Grammar School, Auckland. University College. Hon. LLD University of Victoria British Colombia 1969, Victoria University of Wellington 1970. Apiarist. Served in WWII in the Pacific, as navigator on Catalina flying boats. Gained mountaineering experience in the Southern Alps. Joined the first all-New Zealand Garhwal Himalayan Expedition 1951; the British Everest Reconnaissance 1951; the British Cho Oyo Expedition 1952; was the first person to reach the summit of Everest with Tenzing Norgay on the British Everest Expedition 1953, for which he was knighted; led the NZ Himalayan expedition 1954.These experiences secured his leadership of the NZ Antarctic Expedition 1956–58. The success of that expedition was followed by numerous expeditions in the 1960s and ’70s, including Ganges jet boat expedition from Calcutta to the Himalayas.
He made significant contributions as a philanthropist and humanitarian; in particular, in 1964 he set up the Himalayan Trust to improve services and infrastructure in Nepal by developing clinics, hospitals, airfields and schools there. The Sherpas called Hillary ‘Burra Sahib’, meaning ‘big in heart’. He served as the New Zealand High Commissioner to India, Nepal and Bangladesh from 1984 to 1989. He was the Honorary President of the American Himalayan Foundation, an Honorary Member of the New Zealand Alpine Club, the Explorers Club New York and Hon. President 1985–87, and President of Volunteer Service Abroad.
He returned to Antarctica in 1967 and climbed Mt Herschel. In 1985 he joined astronaut Neil Armstrong on a flight to the North Pole, making him the first person to have reached both poles and the summit of Everest. Hillary appears on New Zealand’s $5 note, an ultimate accolade.