Katherine Routledge

Born: 1866
Died: 1935

Occupation: Archaeologist

Challenges overcome: Schizophrenia

Successes, Achievements & Awards:

Katherine Routledge was a British archaeologist and was born into a wealthy Quaker family in Darlington, northern England. Katherine began (unfortunately did not complete) the first true survey of Easter Island in 1914. Graduating from Somerville Hall in 1895, with an Honours in Modern History, Katherine Routledge went on to teach courses at Darlington Training Courses before travelling to South Africa after the Second Boer War. She travelled with a committee and investigated the resettlement of working, single women from England to South Africa.In 1906, Katherine married William Routledge and joined him in moving to live amongst the Kikuyu people of what was then British East Africa. In 1910, the couple jointly published a book of their research, ‘With A Prehistoric People’.

The couple’s expedition to Easter Island began in March 1913, a year after they departed from England. They affiliated with the British Association for the Advancement of Science, the British Museum and Royal Geographical Society for the trip. The Routledges left the island in August 1915 and published their findings in their second book, ‘The Mystery of Easter Island’. Hundreds of objects that they found are in the Pitt Rivers Museum and British Museum. The Royal Geographical Society in London holds paper records from the expedition. Most of her scientific conclusions are accepted to this day, and Katherine is credited for her primary role in assisting the preservation of the island’s indigenous Polynesian culture.

Challenges Overcome

It is thought that Katherine suffered from the developing stages of paranoid schizophrenia since early childhood, so it is surprising that she was able to get all of her valuable research done for years with no signs of the condition.

After 1925 her condition got worse and entrapped Katherine in delusional paranoia, which led her to throw William out of her house and lock herself inside. William and her family eventually kidnapped Katherine against her will, and sent her away to a mental institution.

Katherine died in 1935 whilst institutionalised.

Disability Definitions


One of several brain diseases whose symptoms may include loss of personality (flat affect), agitation, catatonia, confusion psychosis, unusual behaviour, and social withdrawal.  The illness usually begins in early adulthood.  The cause of schizophrenia is not known, but there appears to be both genetic (inherited) and environmental components to the disease.


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Information sources:

Please click on the information links below to find out more.

Katherine Routledge. (2015, May 3). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia. Retrieved 12:31, June 8, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Katherine_Routledge&oldid=660614862

Image source – Wikicommons


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