An apothecary was a medical professional who formulated and dispensed materia medica to physicians, surgeons and patients. The modern pharmacist (in American English) or chemist (in British English) has taken over this role. The apothecaries’ investigation of herbal and chemical ingredients was a precursor to the modern sciences of chemistry and pharmacology.
In addition to dispensing medicines, the apothecary offered general medical advice and a range of services that are now performed by other specialist practitioners, such as surgeons and obstetricians. Apothecaries often operated through a retail shop which, in addition to ingredients for medicines, sold tobacco and patent medicines
*Apothecary derives from the Ancient Greek word ἀποθήκη (
, “a repository, storehouse”), Latin apotheca (“repository, storehouse, warehouse”), Old French apotecaire, from Medieval Latin apothecarius (“storekeeper”), from apotheca (“shop, store”), which eventually came to mean an Apothecary, or Pharmacist.
“…and for ye shal nat tarie,
Though in this toun is noon apothecarie,
I shal myself to herbes techen yow,
That shul been for youre hele and for youre prow.”
“…and you should not linger,
Though, in this town there is no apothecary,
I will teach you about herbs myself,
That will be for your health and for your pride.”
Geoffrey Chaucer – The Nun’s Priest’s Tale <Pertelote to Chantecleer> End of 14th century.