Robert Peary

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Cresson, Pennsylvania
Birth Sign
Cresson, Pennsylvania

Robert Edwin Peary was an American explorer who asserted in 1909 that he was the first to reach the geographic North Pole. He is one of the most renowned dog team and sledge polar explorers who have made significant contributions to our understanding of the Inuit culture and the Artic circle. Early in his career, his explorations were always motivated by a desire to embark on lengthy expeditions. He was undeterred by adverse weather conditions and a number of health problems, and his unwavering determination to reach the North Pole kept him going. Despite his credibility problems, he has received widespread acclaim and admiration for discovering the world’s three largest meteorites. He received numerous awards and accolades, but his 1909 North Pole expedition remains disputed.

Childhood & Adolescence

Robert Peary was born in Cresson, Pennsylvania, on May 6, 1856, to Charles N. and Mary P. Peary.
Robert and his family relocated to Portland, Maine, following his father’s death in 1859, where Robert worked as a county surveyor.

He enrolled at Bowdoin College in 1873 and graduated in 1877 with a degree in civil engineering.

Robert Peary also worked as a draftsman for the US Coast and Geodetic Survey in Washington, DC, producing technical drawings.

While he was still quite young, he aspired to undertake lengthy expeditions, for which he began preparing quite promptly with weekly hikes of 25 miles. His intelligence also aided him in passing the US Navy’s examinations.

He began his career as a civil engineer (relatively ranked as lieutenant) in the United States Navy Civil Engineer’s Corps in 1881 and progressed to build a career in the field of exploration.

Career of Robert Peary

Robert Peary began his career as a chief assistant on an expedition to Nicaragua in 1884, where he assisted with the surveying of a ship canal. It was only during this time period that his interest in North Pole exploration grew.

In 1886, he attempted to manage a brief inspectional trip to Greenland’s Disco Bay with three companions. They reached 2288 meters above sea level but were forced to return due to food shortages and resumed their duties in Nicaragua.

He mentioned two methods for crossing Greenland’s ice cap in an 1886 paper he wrote for the National Academy of Sciences.

Mathew Henson, an African-American explorer, assisted Peary on a number of his expeditions.

In 1891, he led his second expedition to Greenland, this time taking a more perilous route in order to determine whether Greenland extended all the way to the North Pole. This expedition was funded by the American Geographic Society, the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, and the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences.

The expedition succeeded in establishing Greenland as an island after sledging 2100 kilometers.

His preparations for the North Pole expedition gained momentum during his tenure as a naval engineer along the Eastern seaboard from 1888 to 1891.

Robert attempted his first North Pole expedition in 1898. He trained for the expedition by studying the Inuit way of life, building igloos, and operating a dog sledge. This journey was difficult due to adverse weather conditions that resulted in the freezing of his eight toes, necessitating the amputation of all toes to facilitate walking.

Further expeditions to higher latitudes necessitated a ship and a large sum of money, which Peary raised through lectures in various locations.

He is credited with discovering Cape Jesup, Greenland’s northernmost tip, during the 1898-1902 expedition. This expedition was conducted aboard a ship called the Roosevelt.

In 1908, Peary made his third and final attempt to reach the North Pole. He embarked on this expedition with five others and arrived safely on April 6, 1909.

To Peary’s dismay, Cook claimed to have touched the North Pole a year earlier, in April 1908.

Several of his adventures were chronicled in Northward over the “Great Ice” (1898), The North Pole (1910), and Secrets of Polar Travel (1910). (1917).

Peary was appointed Naval Captain in 1910 and received the Thanks of Congress in 1911 via a special act.

He resigned as Rear Admiral of the Naval Civil Engineer on March 3, 1911. (promoted by the special act of the Congress).

Awards and Accomplishments

Peary received numerous awards from various scientific societies in Europe and America following his retirement for his expedition to the North Pole.

After serving as President of the Explorers Club twice (1909–1911 and 1913–1916), he was appointed chairman of the National Aerial Coast Patrol Commission, a private organization that proposed aircraft for detecting warships and submarines off the United States’ coast.

Peary is also credited with founding the Naval Reserve during World War I and with developing the United States Postal Service’s air mail system based on air mail routes.

Robert was awarded a Congressional medal in 1944 for his expedition to the North Pole.

He received numerous additional medals, including the Cullum Geographical Medal (1896), the Charles P. Daly Medal (1902) from the American Geographical Society; the Hubbard Medal from the National Geographic Society in 1906; the special great gold medal from the Royal Geographical Society of London and the National Geographic Society of Washington; and the Helen Culver medal from the Chicago Geographical Society.

Peary was awarded honorary doctorates of laws by Bowdoin College and Edinburgh University, as well as honorary memberships in the New York Chamber of Commerce, the Pennsylvania Society, the Manchester Geographical Society, and the Royal Netherlands Geographical Society in Amsterdam.

In 1913, he was appointed Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor.

The United States Postal Service commemorated Robert Peary with a 22 cent postage stamp.

Personal History and Legacies

Robert Peary married Josephine Diebitsch, a business school graduate, on August 11, 1888. She was a woman with a contemporary outlook, having been professionally active since the age of 19. Marie Ahnighito and Robert Peary, Jr. were born to the couple.

Due to his work commitments, Peary could only afford to spend three years with his family during the first twenty-three years of marriage. He was unable to share in the family’s joys and sorrows, particularly the birth and early death of his son.

Peary was chastised for bringing six Inuits from his 1897 expedition to the United States and for their subsequent mistreatment. These Inuits were given to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where five of them perished.

Peary is said to have had a relationship with Aleqasina, an Inuit woman with whom he had two children during the Artic expeditions.

He moved to Harpswell, Eagle Island, on the Maine coast in late 1911, and the house became a place of historic significance as the Maine State Historic Site.

Robert Peary died in Washington, D.C. on February 20, 1920, at the age of 63.

He was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, where his daughter dedicated the Admiral Robert Edwin Peary monument on April 6, 1922, in the presence of President Harding and former Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby.

Estimated Net Worth

Robert is one of the richest Explorer & listed on most popular Explorer. According to our analysis, Wikipedia, Forbes & Business Insider, Robert Peary net worth is approximately $1.5 Million.


Robert Peary’s life was portrayed in Glory & Honor, a television film that won a Primetime Emmy.

His claim of reaching the North Pole has been contested. According to some historians, Peary believed he had reached the pole honestly, while others assert that he purposefully exaggerated his achievements.