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Reginald Koettlitz (1860 - 1916) - Biographical Notes

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Koettlitz in northern polar attire as used on the Jackson-Harmsworth Expedition
Koettlitz in polar clothing as worn on the Jackson-Harmsworth Expedition

Scott's Forgotten Surgeon: Dr. Reginald Koettlitz, Polar Explorer
Scott's Forgotten Surgeon: Dr. Reginald Koettlitz, Polar Explorer (Paperback)

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Doctor - Jackson-Harmsworth Arctic expedition 1894

Doctor and botanist - Discovery 1901-04


Reginald Koettlitz was a naturalized Briton, the son of a Reformed Lutheran Church minister (his father was from Koenigsburg, then in Prussia) and an English lady who settled at Hougham, Kent near to Dover in the 1860's.


The grandfather had been the chief of police in Konigsburg. The family moved to Germany to Koln area to escape religious persecution. The father of Reginald married an English governess in Germany. They moved to Ostend Belgium where various children were born (Reginald on the 23rd of December 1860). However again due to persecution they moved close to Dover, Hougham and Dover itself. Where they had a doctors surgery. The father on a census was put down as a spy by the enumerator.

Reginald Koettlittz was very studious person, after early schooling at Dover College, he studied medicine at Guys hospital. Upon qualifying went to the coal fields of Durham and doctored there for 8 years. He then heard that the Jackson-Harmsworth expedition was going to take place and got an interview. He got the position as doctor and biologist. However there was a requirement to be an English subject. He persuaded the Mayor of Dover and others to petition the home secretary to get British citizenship. This he obtained days before embarking on the expedition.

His position in the Discovery expedition was a condition imposed by Sir Alfred Harmsworth, who donated the very large sum of 5000 toward the expedition, Armitage (also of the Jackson-Harmworth Expedition) was also included as a member of the expedition in the same manner.

Four years away seemed to alight a wanderlust and on that expedition ending, he accompanied other expeditions to Abyssinia, Somaliland and Brazil before joining the Discovery Expedition to the Antarctic in 1901 at the age of 40.


Medical duties were usually expected to be light on such expeditions as the crew and men were chosen partly for their good health and fitness, Koettlitz was also to act as botanist to the expedition. The land flora of Antarctica is very poor, generally consisting of lichens and mosses, though phytoplankton were also studied as part of this botanical remit.


During the Discovery Expedition, Koettlitz removed a cyst from First Lieutenant Royds' cheek, said to be one of the first Antarctic operations.


Later members of Reginald's family  family took the surname of the mother rather than continue to use Koettlitz. A sister of Reginald married Mesnel the anarchist in France. A brother was a composer and moved to London.


Reginald Koettlitz died in South Africa in January 1916 of dysentery along with his wife.


With thanks to Douglas Dickson for further information.


More about Reginald Koettlitz


Landmarks named after Reginald Koettlitz:


Feature Name: Koettlitz Glacier
Type: glacier
Latitude: 78°15S
Longitude: 164°15E
A large glacier lying W of Mounts Morning and Discovery, flowing from the vicinity of Mount Cocks northeastward between Brown Peninsula and the mainland into the ice shelf of McMurdo Sound.

Feature Name: Koettlitz Neve
Feature Type: glacier
Latitude: 78°27S
Longitude: 163°00E
Named in association with Koettlitz Glacier.

Biographical information - This is a difficult area to research, I am concentrating on the Polar experiences of the men involved. Any further information or pictures visitors may have is gratefully received. Please email  - Paul Ward, webmaster.
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