Robert Peary

1856–1920

Peary
PEARY'S FLAG ATOP THE NORTH POLE.

Robert Peary was born in Cresson, Pennsylvania, and he graduated from Bowdoin College before moving to his home in Fryeburg, Maine. Peary made several expeditions to the Arctic during the late 19th century, crossing Greenland by dog sled and twice attempting to traverse the countryís northernmost ice cap. While in Greenland, he built igloos, dressed in traditional furs, and studied the survival techniques of the native Inuit. His wife Josephine accompanied him on several expeditions, and during the course of his travels he lost eight toes to frostbite.

In 1900, Peary discovered Cape Jesup at the north tip of Greenland, and this along with his mapping of the regional area earned him medals from the American Geographical Society and the Royal Geography Society of London. Pearyís next expedition was well funded, and he sailed north to the region between Greenland and Ellesmere Island. From there, he and a group of skilled navigators went on by dogsled until a storm separated Peary from his companions. He pressed onward, claiming to break the Farthest North world record and reach a previously undiscovered expanse of land even further north than Greenland. His claims were largely disputed, and in 1914 his supposed land mass was proved not to exist at all, but nevertheless he was awarded the Hubbard Gold Medal from the National Geographic Society.

Pearyís final expedition took place in 1908, when he attempted once more to reach the North Pole. He accomplished this in the spring of 1909, along with four other men, only to learn upon his return that another explorer, who had accompanied Peary on his 1891 expedition, had reached the Pole the year before. While Peary could not be credited with discovering the North Pole, he was, for having reached the Pole, given a Rear Admiralís pension and the Thanks of Congress in 1911. He retired to his home in Maine, and after his death he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


Key events during the life of Robert Peary:


Year
Event
1856
Born.
1877
Graduated from Bowdoin College.
1886-97
Made several expeditions to the Arctic.
1900
Discovered Cape Jesup.
  Awarded gold medals by the American Geographical Society and the Royal Geography Society of London.
1906
Was separated from his team and claimed to reach the northernmost point of Greenland to ever be explored.
  Also claimed to have discovered land even further north of Greenland.
1909
Reached the North Pole.
1911
Given a Rear Admiralís pension and the Thanks of Congress.
1920
Died in Washington, D.C.

Other Resources


Story Links
Book Links
Peary Reaches the North Pole  in  A Book of Discovery  by  M. B. Synge


Image Links


Peary's flag flying at the North Pole, April 1909
 in A Book of Discovery


Contemporary
Short Biography
John Philip Holland Born in Ireland, Holland designed the first submarine used by the U.S. Navy.
Woodrow Wilson United States President during the First World War. Founder of the League of Nations.
Grover Cleveland President of the United States, elected twice. He was a reformer, noted for his honesty.
Theodore Roosevelt Progressive Republican who served as the 26th President of the United States.
George Dewey Highest ranking Naval Officer in U.S. Hero of Battle of Manila Bay in Spanish American War.