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Profile of the Day: Robert E. Peary

On this day in 1909, American explorer Robert E. Peary and his assistant, Matthew A. Henson, purportedly became the first men to reach the North Pole.

Image: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Born in Cresson, Pennsylvania, Peary joined the United States Navy in 1881 as a civil engineer. It was during his time in the Navy that he resolved to be the first man to reach the North Pole. Peary studied the survival techniques of the Inuits and adopted their practices during his expeditions, including building igloos which helped remove the extra weight of tents.

On April 6, 1909, Peary and his team claimed to have set foot on the North Pole. However, his claims fell under intense scrutiny upon his return home. Frederick A. Cook, a previous expedition companion of Peary’s, had claimed to have discovered the North Pole a year earlier. Cook’s claims were later discredited, but Peary’s reputation suffered from the bad press.

Although reevaluation of Peary’s expedition notes have casted some doubts on Peary’s claim (some speculate he may have been 30-60 miles short of the North Pole), he is still credited with the achievement. In 1911, Peary was formally recognized by Congress to have “attained” the Pole.

Explore Robert E. Peary’s family tree on Geni and share you’re connection to the explorer. 

View Robert E. Peary’s Geni Profile

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