Belief in the existence of a vast continent located in the far south of the Earth has existed since around the year 150. Ptolemy, the Greek astronomer, mathematician, geographer, and astrologer, suggested the idea in order to preserve symmetry of landmass in the world.
Depictions of a large southern landmass were common in maps in the early 16th century. The first confirmed sighting of Antarctica was in 1820, but there is disagreement about which of three ships got there first.
The magnetic south pole was first reached during an expedition led by British explorer Ernest Shackleton in 1907. Shackleton himself and three other members of his expedition made several firsts in 1908 and 1909: first humans to traverse the Ross Ice Shelf, first humans to traverse the Transantarctic Mountain Range, and first humans to set foot on the South Polar Plateau. In 1911, a party led by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first to reach the geographic south pole. It was not until 1956 that anyone set foot on the pole again, when a US Navy group led by Rear Admiral George Dufek landed a plane there.
Antarctica has no permanent residents, but several countries keep permanent research stations there. The population on Antarctica and nearby islands varies from about 4,000 in summer to 1,000 in winter. In 1978, Emilio Marcos Palma was the first person born on the Antarctic mainland. His parents were sent there with seven other Argentinean families to determine if family life was suitable on the continent. (info from PBS and Wikipedia, photo from NASA)