Dr Reginald Koettlitz (1860-1916): Arctic and Antarctic explorer

ArticleinJournal of Medical Biography 20(4):141-7 · November 2012with 15 Reads
Reginald Koettlitz was born in Ostend but moved to England as a child and qualified at Guy's Hospital. He was a general practitioner in County Durham for eight years before serving as doctor and geologist to the Jackson-Harmsworth Expedition to Franz-Josef Land in 1894-97. Thereafter he made further expeditions to Somaliland, Abyssinia and the Amazon before joining Captain Scott's Discovery Expedition to the Antarctic in 1901-04 as surgeon and botanist. After the expedition he emigrated to South Africa, where he worked as a general practitioner, dying in 1916.

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    In the literature of the exploration of the Antarctic in the early 20th century, there are many references to ‘medical comforts’. While ‘medical comforts’ was sometimes used as a euphemism for alcoholic beverages, the term, which originated in the army, covered all foods and drinks used for the treatment and prevention of illness and during convalescence. This article describes the use of medical comforts during the Antarctic expeditions of the so called ‘heroic age’. Apart from alcohol, medical comforts included beef extracts, milk extracts and arrowroot. These products were extensively advertised to the medical and nursing professions and to the general public and the Antarctic connection was sometimes used in the advertising. The products were largely devoid of vitamins and their use may have contributed to some of the disease that occurred on these expeditions.