Robert Edwin Peary Sr. (; May 6, 1856 – February 20, 1920) was an American explorer and United States Navy officer who made several expeditions to the Arctic in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He is best known for claiming to have reached the geographic North Pole with his expedition on April 6, 1909.
Peary was born in Gallitzin, Pennsylvania, but following his father's death at a young age, was raised in Portland, Maine. He went to a prominent boarding school called Loomis Chaffe. He attended Bowdoin College, then joined the National Geodetic Survey as a draftsman. Peary enlisted in the navy in 1881, as a civil engineer. In 1885, he was made chief of surveying for the Nicaragua Canal (which was never built). Peary visited the Arctic for the first time in 1886, making an unsuccessful attempt to cross Greenland by dogsled. He returned in 1891 much better prepared, and by reaching Independence Fjord (in what is now known as Peary Land) proved conclusively that Greenland was an island. He was one of the first Arctic explorers to study Inuit survival techniques. During an expedition in 1894 he was the first Western explorer to reach the Cape York meteorite and its fragments, which were subsequently taken from the native Inuit population who had relied on it for creating tools. During that same expedition, Peary deceived six indigenous individuals, one of them Minik Wallace, to travel to America with him by promising they would be able to return with tools, weapons and gifts within the year. This promise would be unfulfilled, with four of the six dying of illnesses within a few months.
On his 1898–1902 expedition, Peary set a new "Farthest North" record by reaching Greenland's northernmost point, Cape Morris Jesup. Peary made two further expeditions to the Arctic, in 1905–1906 and in 1908–1909. During the latter, he claimed to have reached the North Pole. Peary received a number of awards from geographical societies during his lifetime, and in 1911 received the Thanks of Congress and was promoted to rear admiral. He served two terms as president of The Explorers Club and retired.
Peary's claim to have reached the North Pole was widely debated in contemporary newspapers (along with a competing claim made by Frederick Cook), but eventually won widespread acceptance. In 1989, British explorer Wally Herbert concluded Peary did not reach the pole, although he may have been as close as 60 miles (97 km). His conclusions have been widely accepted, although disputed by some authorities.