Hillary, Edmund 1919-2008 (Edmund Percival Hillary, Sir Edmund Hillary)

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Hillary, Edmund 1919-2008 (Edmund Percival Hillary, Sir Edmund Hillary)


See index for CA sketch: Born July 20, 1919, in Auckland, New Zealand; died after a heart attack, January 11, 2008, in Auckland, New Zealand. Mountaineer, beekeeper, and author. Hillary made history in 1953 when he and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, became the first explorers to reach the top of the highest mountain in the world. Many adventurers had died in previous attempts to scale Mount Everest, and until Hillary and Tenzing reached that peak, no one—scientist, doctor, or climber—was certain that it was humanly possible. Hillary became an instant hero all over the world. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1959 (and decorated knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter in 1995) and awarded the Founder's Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society, the Order of Strong Right Arms of the Gurkhas of Nepal, the Star of Nepal first class, and the Polar Medal of the British Ministry of Defence, among many other accolades. Hillary never attempted another Everest ascent, but he continued his quest for adventure and what he himself referred to as an escape from boredom. He returned to the Himalayas several times, including a trip in 1960 to search for the "abominable snowman," known as Yeti in those parts, and a boat expedition up the Ganges River in 1977. He also won a race to the South Pole on gi- ant, specially rigged tractors in 1958 and reached the North Pole by plane at a later date. At home in New Zealand Hillary seemed content to pursue the family trade as a beekeeper, but he did spend a few years in the 1980s as a diplomatic representative of New Zealand in India. After his own ascent of Everest spawned a burgeoning tourist industry in the Sherpa villages of Nepal, Hillary became increasingly upset over the exploitation of the Sherpa guides for commercial gain. He founded the Himalayan Trust in 1961 and worked tirelessly for the rest of his life to raise money for the welfare of the mountain people of Nepal. He also became a public lecturer regarding his adventures and a consultant on outdoor sporting gear. Hillary also became an author; in addition to several memoirs, he wrote or edited books such as Challenge of the Unknown (1958), No Latitude for Error (1961), Schoolhouse in the Clouds (1964), From the Ocean to the Sky (1979), and Ecology 2000: The Changing Face of Earth (1984).



Hillary, Edmund, High Adventure, Dutton (New York, NY), 1955.

Hillary, Edmund, and Vivian Fuchs, The Crossing of Antarctica: The Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, Cassell (London, England), 1959.

Hillary, Edmund, and Desmond Doig, High in the Thin Cold Air: The Story of the Himalayan Expedition Led by Sir Edmund Hillary, Sponsored by the World Book Encyclopedia, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1962.

Hillary, Edmund, Nothing Venture, Nothing Win, Coward, McCann & Geoghegan (New York, NY), 1975.

Hillary, Edmund, The View from the Summit, Doubleday (London, England), 1999.

Tenzing Norgay and James Ramsey Ullman, Tiger of the Snows: The Autobiography of Tenzing of Everest, Putnam (New York, NY), 1955.


Chicago Tribune, January 11, 2008, sec. 1, pp. 1, 9.

Los Angeles Times, January 11, 2008, pp. A1, A4.

New York Times, January 11, 2008, p. A17; January 12, 2008, p. A2.

Times (London, England), January 12, 2008, p. 77.

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Hillary, Edmund 1919-2008 (Edmund Percival Hillary, Sir Edmund Hillary)

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