2000 Jury Member

The Rolex Awards for Enterprise

Location: France

Michel Peissel
France, 1937-2011

Known as one of the last true explorers of our time, Michel Peissel has spent the last four decades investigating remote areas and chronicling traditional societies. 


His vocation took shape from an early age when Peissel’s heroes were Captain Robert Falcon Scott and Alexander von Humboldt. Educated at the Harvard Business School, Oxford and the Sorbonne, where he graduated with a doctorate in ethnology, Peissel was ready and eager to make his own discoveries. His first was at the age of 21, when he found 14 previously unknown Mayan archaeological sites in Mexico.

Today, the Tibetan-speaking anthropologist is best known for being the first to explore the Himalayan Kingdom of Mustang, for discovering the source of the Mekong River and for finding a new breed of horse, thereby providing an important piece in the puzzle of equine evolution. In 1997, Peissel unearthed igloo-like structures in Tibet, home to nomads whom the Chinese call “the last barbarians”, the title of his latest book.

Despite participating in over 20 documentary films, publishing more than 200 articles and writing 18 books, for which he has won many literary awards, the French explorer and anthropologist maintains a low profile. Shunning publicity, Peissel simply wants to be free to explore the last unknown recesses of our shrinking planet.

Other 2000 Jury Members