New Zealand explorer and mountaineer who, in 1953 with the Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay (c. 1914–86), first climbed to the summit of Mount Everest. He received a knighthood in the same year in recognition of his achievement.
Born in Auckland, Hillary spent two years at Auckland University College and worked on his father's farm before joining the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 1943. He served as a navigator aboard flying boats in the Pacific during the war. Afterwards he worked as an apiarist in partnership with his brother, an interest he has maintained between expeditions. The first of these was in 1951 – the New Zealand Garwhal Expedition to the Himalayas – after which he joined the British Everest Reconnaissance, the British Cho Oyu Expedition (1952), and the British Expedition (1953) led by Sir John Hunt. With Tenzing, Hillary reached the 8848 m peak on 29 May 1953. The following year, Hillary led the New Zealand Himalayan expedition to the Barun Valley, east of Everest, and in 1955 he headed the New Zealand contingent of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition organized by Vivian Fuchs. During this, Hillary made an overland journey to the South Pole, reaching it in January 1958.
Hillary made further expeditions to the Everest region and in 1967 led the first ascent of Mount Herschel in Antarctica. He also navigated the Sun Kosi river in the Himalayas (1968) and in 1977 led a powerboat expedition up the Ganges river from its mouth, continuing to its source on foot. From 1984 to 1989 he was New Zealand high commissioner in New Delhi. He became UNICEF Special Representative for Children of the Himalayas in 1991. His books include High Adventure (1956), From the Ocean to the Sky (1979), his autobiography Nothing Venture, Nothing Win (1975), and (with Peter Hillary) Two Generations (1983).
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).