MATTHEW HENSON – Robert Peary is most often credited as the first man set foot at the North Pole, but technically and historically that distinction goes to Matthew Henson, a fellow explorer and associate of Peary. Both men had worked together, including several expeditions to the Arctic. Henson had spent a significant time living with the Inuit, spoke their language, and had considerable experience working with dogsleds. He joined Peary in 1909 on the explorer’s eighth attempt to reach the North Pole. His health failing, and unable to walk, Peary went by dogsled while Henson led the way by foot. Although Peary is credited as having “discovered” the North Pole, Henson had set foot there first. Peary was lauded as a hero, receiving many honors and awards, while Henson lived much of his life in the shadows. In 1944, Congress recognized Henson’s contribution to the Peary expedition.
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