Robert Edwin Peary Sr. was an American explorer and officer in the United States Navy who made several expeditions to the Arctic in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He is best known for, in April 1909, leading an expedition that claimed to be the first to have reached the geographic North Pole. Explorer Matthew Henson, part of the expedition, is thought to have reached what they believed to be the North Pole narrowly before Peary.
Peary was born in Cresson, Pennsylvania but, following his father's death at a young age, was raised in Portland, Maine. He attended Bowdoin College, then joined the U.S. National Geodetic Survey as a draftsman. He 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. He visited the Arctic for the first time in 1886, making an unsuccessful attempt to cross Greenland by dogsled. In the Peary expedition to Greenland of 1891–1892, he was much better prepared, and by reaching Independence Fjord in what is now known as Peary Land, he proved conclusively that Greenland was an island. He was one of the first Arctic explorers to study Inuit survival techniques.