The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 6, Number 2
Apr 1982

Certification of Apothecaries in 1815

The apothecary was not a druggist or chemist in England in the early nineteenth century, but a medical practitioner who was authorized to prescribe and sell drugs. In those days each type of doctor had its own professional association: the physicians and the surgeons each had their Royal College, and the lower-status apothecaries their Society of Apothecaries. Then as now the government required the professional association to examine and certify applicants, as a way of protecting the public from unqualified or fraudulent practitioners.

Nowadays, neither the state nor the federal government (in this country anyhow) takes part in enforcing standards of practice in conservation, except indirectly through tort law. Partly because of this, standards are hard to enforce. Readers who have been concerned with this issue will recognize parallel elements in the certification process, then and now, in the following excerpts from a 12-page law passed in the 55th year of the reign of George Third in 1815. Its chapter (act) number is "Cap. CXCIV" or 194. Each paragraph in the original is numbered and summarized in the margin. To give an idea of the scope of the law, some of these summaries are included even when the paragraph is omitted,


I-VI. Charter by Jac. I. to Apothecaries Company recited. Charter confirmed, except as altered by this Act. So much of recited Charter as directs the Master and Wardens, &c. to enter the shops of Apothecaries & to examine their Medicines, &c. & to impose Penalties, repealed, Master... empowered to enter shops... Qualifications of Persons appointed to examine Drugs, &c. Penalty on Apothecary's refusing to compound, or unfaithfully compounding Medicines prescribed. Master & Wardens may appoint deputy.

VII. The Master, Wardens, and Society of Apothecaries incorporated by Charter of King James the First, appointed to carry this Act into execution.

And whereas much Mischief and Inconvenience has arisen, from great Numbers of Persons in many Parts of England and Wales exercising the Functions of an Apothecary, who are wholly ignorant, and utterly incompetent to the Exercise of such Functions, whereby the Health and Lives of the Community are greatly endangered; and it is become necessary that Provision should be made f or remedying such Evils; be it therefore further enacted, That the said Master, Wardens, and Society of the Art and Mystery of Apothecaries of the City of London, incorporated by the said recited Charter of His Majesty King James the First, and their Successors, shall be... directed and empowered, for ever, to superintend the Execution of the Provisions of this Act, and to enforce and carry the several Regulations and Provisions thereof.., into full execution.

VIII. No Acts of Master, Wardens, &c. valid, unless done at a Meeting, &c.

IX. A Court of Examiners to be chosen by the Master, Wardens, &c.

And be it further enacted, That... Twelve Persons properly qualified, as herein-before is mentioned, shall be chosen and appointed by the said Master, Wardens, and Assistants for the Time being,... and such Persons, when so chosen and appointed,.., shall be... called the Court of Examiners of the Society of Apothecaries; and such Court of Examiners, or the major Part of them present at any Meeting, shall have full Power and Authority.., to examine all Apothecaries, and Assistants to Apothecaries, and to grant or refuse such Certificate, as hereinafter is mentioned; and such Court of Examiners.., are hereby required to meet and assemble in some convenient Room in the Hall of the said Society, once at least in every Week, for the Purpose of such Examination, and then and there to examine all Persons applying to be examined, and duly qualified so to be by virtue of this Act.

X. Chairman to be appointed.

XI. Oath to be taken by Examiners.

XII. Persons appointed Examiners, to continue in Office for one Year.

XIII, In case of Death, &c. others to be appointed.

XIV. Persons not to practise as Apothecaries, &c. without due Examination.

And to prevent any Person or Persons from practising as an Apothecary, without being properly qualified to practise as such, be it further enacted, That from and after the First Day of August One thousand eight hundred and fifteen, it shall not be lawful for any Person or Persons (except Persons already in Practise as such) to practise as an Apothecary in any Part of England or Wales, unless he or they shall have been examined by the said Court of Examiners, or the major Part of them, and have received a Certificate.. -- from the said Court... who are hereby authorized and required to examine all Person and Persons applying to them, f or the Purpose of ascertaining the Skill and Abilities of such Person or Persons in the Science and Practice of Medicine, and his or their Fitness and Qualification to practise as an Apothecary... Provided always, that no Person shall be admitted to such Examination until he shall have attained the full Age of Twenty-one Years.

XV. Applicants for Examination to produce Testimonials.

Provided always, and be it enacted, That no Person shall be admitted to any such Examination for a Certificate to practise as an Apothecary, unless he shall have served an Apprenticeship of not less than Five Years to an Apothecary, and unless he shall produce Testimonials to the Satisfaction of the said Court of Examiners, of a sufficient Medical Education, and of a good moral Conduct.

XVI. Persons intending to qualify, to give Notice to Clerk of the said Master, Wardens, &c.

XVII. Assistant to Apothecaries, &c. to be examined.

XVIII. Power for Master and Wardens to appoint Five Apothecaries as Examiners for Assistants.

XIX. Sums to be paid for Certificates.

And be it further enacted, That the Sum of Ten Pounds Ten Shillings shall be paid to the said Master, Wardens, and Society of Apothecaries, for every such Certificate as aforesaid, on obtaining the same, by every Person intending to practise as an Apothecary within the City of London, the Liberties or Suburbs thereof, or within Ten Miles of the same City; and the Sum of Six Pounds Six Shillings by every Person intending to practise as an Apothecary in any other Part of England or Wales... and the Sum of Two Pounds Two Shillings by every Assistant....

XX. Penalty f or acting without a Certificate,

...Every Person so offending shall for every such Offense, forfeit and pay the Sum of Twenty Pounds; and if and Person... shall.., act as an Assistant to any Apothecary, to compound and dispense Medicines, without having obtained such Certificate as aforesaid, every Person so offending, shall for every such Offence forfeit and pay the Sum of Five Pounds.

XXI. Apothecaries not to recover charges [in a court of law], unless duly licensed.

XXII. Persons, on Refusal of Certificate to practise as an Apothecary, &c. may apply again.

XXIII. A List of the Apothecaries approved by the Court of Examiners to be printed.

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