10 December, 2009
Edward Leicester Atkinson was a Royal naval surgeon and Antarctic explorer who was a member of the scientific staff of Captain Scott's Terra Nova Expedition, 1910-13. He was in command of the expedition's base at Cape Evans for much of 1912, and led the party that found the tent containing the bodies of Scott, "Birdie" Bowers and Edward Wilson. Atkinson was subsequently associated with two controversies: that relating to Scott's orders concerning the use of dogs, and that relating to the possible incidence of scurvy in the polar party. He is commemorated by the Atkinson Cliffs on the northern coast of Victoria Land, Antarctica.
Atkinson was born on 23 November 1881 in the Windward Isles, where he spent much of his childhood. He was educated at the Forest School, Snaresbrook, and received his medical training at St Thomas's Hospital, London, where he became the hospital's light heavyweight boxing champion. He qualified in 1906 and two years later joined the Royal Navy as a medical officer, based at the Royal Naval Hospital, Haslar, in Gosport, Hampshire. He was primarily a researcher, and had published a paper on gonorrhoeal rheumatism when he was appointed physician and parasitologist to the Terra Nova expedition.
In 1928 his wife died and he suffered a nervous breakdown. He recovered, however, and within a few months had married again and been promoted Surgeon-Captain. On board ship in the Mediterranean on 20 February 1929, on his way back to England, Atkinson died suddenly, at the age of 47, and was buried at sea.