Edmund Hillary

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Sir Edmund Percival Hillary KG ONZ KBE (born July 20, 1919) is a New Zealand mountaineer and explorer (known in New Zealand as Sir Ed), famed for being the first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest. He reached the 29,035-foot (8850-m) summit on May 291953 at 11:30 a.m. local time, at the same time as sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

The feat was accomplished as part of the ninth British expedition to Everest, led by Sir John Hunt. After descending, it is claimed that he said that he and Tenzing had "knocked the bastard off", a phrase which has found its way into colloquial New Zealand English. He is the only living New Zealander to appear on a banknote.

Born in Tuakau (south of Auckland), he attended Auckland Grammar School. The trip to school was over two hours each way, time which he spent reading. As he grew up he was smaller than his peers and very shy so he took refuge in his books and daydreams of a life filled with adventure. At age 16, his interest in climbing was sparked during a school trip to Ruapehu. He found that his gangly and uncoordinated frame was physically strong and had greater endurance than many of his tramping companions.

During World War II he was a RNZAF navigator. He was part of an unsuccessful New Zealand expedition to Everest in 1951 before joining the successful British attempt of 1953. He climbed ten other peaks in the Himalaya on further visits in 1956, 1960-61 and 1963-65. He also reached the South Pole, as part of the British Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, on January 4, 1958.

He was created a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) on July 16, 1953; a member of the Order of New Zealand (ONZ) in 1987; and a Knight of the Order of the Garter (KG) on April 23, 1995.

He lost his wife Louise and daughter Belinda in an air crash in Nepal. He later married June Mulgrew. Hillary's son Peter Hillary is an adventurer and has climbed Everest twice.

He has devoted much of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan Trust which he founded and to which he has given much of his time and energy. Through his efforts he has succeeded in building many schools and hospitals in this remote region of the Himalaya. He has stated that he regards this as his most important achievement. He is also the Honorary President of the American Himalayan Foundation, a US non-profit body that also helps improve the ecology and living conditions in the Himalayas. During the mid-1980s, he was New Zealand's High Commissioner to India (the equivalent of an Ambassador between Commonwealth countries), where he was in frequent demand as a guest of honour.

To mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the first successful ascent of Everest, the Nepalese Government conferred honorary citizenship upon Sir Ed at a special golden jubilee celebration in the capital, Kathmandu. He is the first foreign national to receive such an honour from the Nepalese.

In 1979, he had been scheduled to act as a commentator on the ill-fated Air New Zealand Flight 901, but had to pull out due to work commitments elsewhere. He was replaced by his close friend Peter Mulgrew, who perished on the flight.

As of 2006 Hillary lives in a quiet retirement at his home in Auckland, New Zealand, although he does appear for official engagements from time to time.

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