Edward Leicester Atkinson collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of papers relating to Atkinson's involvement in the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (leader Robert Falcon Scott) including work on motor sledges, and the search for Scott and his companions. The second part of the collection comprises of correspondence by Atkinson with other polar explorers and their families written during and after the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913.

Administrative / Biographical History

Edward Leicester Atkinson was born in Trinidad on 23 November 1882. He was educated at Forest School in Walthamstow and studied medicine at St Thomas's Hospital. He qualified as a surgeon in 1906 and subsequently entered the Royal Navy in 1908. Atkinson joined the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (leader Robert Falcon Scott) as surgeon to the main party and as parasitologist and bacteriologist. The expedition proved to be productive for Atkinson, who found some interesting new parasites of potential scientific importance, including the discovery of a new tape-worm in the intestines of the Adelie penguin. As a member of the support party, he accompanied Scott's polar party as far as the upper depot on the Beardmore Glacier. Atkinson remained at Cape Evans for a second winter, as senior officer taking charge in the absence of Victor Campbell. With growing anxiety about Scott and those missing with him, Atkinson decided to lead a search party. The party found and buried the bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers in November 1912.

During the First World War, Atkinson served with the Royal Naval Division at Gallipoli and with the Royal Marine Howitzer Brigade in France and was awarded the DSO and the Albert Medal. He continued in the Navy after the war reaching the rank of Surgeon-Commander. He died at sea on 20 February 1929.


The collection is split into two sub-fonds, comprising of expedition material and correspondence respectively.

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance of R. Stancombe and reference to Antarctica's Forgotten Men by Leslie B. Quartermaine, Millwood Press, Wellington (1981) ISBN 0908582528 SPRI Library Shelf 92(08)[1981] and Encyclopaedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans ed. Bernard Stonehouse, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester (2002) ISBN 0471986658 SPRI Library (7) and Robert Keith Headland Antarctic Chronology, unpublished corrected revision of Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events, (1 December 2001) Cambridge University Press (1989) ISBN 0521309034

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing, New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible.

Related Material

SPRI archival collection GB 015 Leslie Quartermain contains a biographical sketch of Atkinson