Home Articles Pharmacy Articles Apothecary
Apothecary (from the Latin apothecarius, a
keeper of an otheca, a store) is a historical name for a medical
practitioner who formulates and dispenses materia medica to
physicians, surgeons and patients - a role now served by a pharmacist.
In addition to pharmacy the apothecary
also offered general medical advice and a range of services
that are now performed solely by other specialist practitioners,
such as surgery and midwifery. Apothecaries
often operated through a retail shop, which in addition
to ingredients for medicines, would also sell tobacco
and patent medicines.
In its investigation of herbal
and chemical ingredients, the work of the apothecary
may be regarded as a precursor of the modern sciences
of chemistry and pharmacology, prior to the formulation
of the scientific method.
From the 15th century the apothecary gained
the status of a skilled practitioner, but by the end of the
19th century the medical professions had taken on their current
institutional form, with defined roles for doctors and surgeons,
and the role of the apothecary was more narrowly conceived as
that of dispensing pharmacist.
In England, the apothecaries merited
their own livery company, the Worshipful Society of
Apothecaries, founded in 1617. Elizabeth Garrett
Anderson became the first woman to gain a medical
qualification in Britain when she passed the Society's
examination in 1865.
Apothecaries used the now obsolete apothecaries'
measure to provide precise weighing of small quantities.
There is a set of mystery novels featuring
the historical character of John Rawlings, an 18th-century apothecary,
written by Deryn Lake, the pen name of Dinah Lampitt.