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Matthew Webb
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    (January 19, 1848-July 24, 1883)
    Born in Shropshire, England, United Kingdom
    First person to swim across the English Channel (August 24, 1875)
    He zigzagged so much due to currents that he swam 39 miles to cover a 21-mile linear distance.
    He cashed in by licensing his name and image for pottery, silverware and matches.
    In a David Blaine-style stunt, he floated in a tank of water for 128 hours (and earned £1,000).
    In a world championship swimming match, he defeated American rival Paul Boynton, but was accused of cheating so the title and prize money were withheld (1879).
    He attempted to swim the Whirlpool Rapids below Niagara Falls, but was caught in an eddy and pulled below the water (July 24, 1883).
    His body was not found for four days.
    When he was fifteen, he rescued his twelve-year-old brother from drowning.
    While serving as second mate on a Cunard Line ship, he dove into the ocean to rescue a man who had fallen overboard.
    He was unsuccessful, but his bravery won him £100 and the Stanhope Medal from the Royal Humane Society.
    During his Channel swim, he had to be revived with brandy after being stung by jellyfish.
    It took 36 years before a second person successfully swam the Channel.
    He inspired the John Betjeman poem 'A Shrophsire Lad.'
    His picture on a box of Bryant and May matches reportedly inspired Peter Sellers' appearance as Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films.

Credit: C. Fishel

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