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The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London

The forerunners of general practitioners

Until the 19th century, physicians could only qualify at the universities of Oxford or Cambridge and by the will of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This ruled out professional care for large sections of the population, who instead turned to apothecaries.

The forerunners of general practitioners, apothecaries were involved in the preparation and sale of substances for medicinal purposes.

Regulation and responsibility

In 1617, the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London was founded by Royal Charter as the professional body for apothecaries. Between 1672 and 1922 the society itself produced and sold medicinal and pharmaceutical substances.

In 1704, the House of Lords ruled that apothecaries could prescribe and dispense medicines.

The Apothecaries Act 1815 enabled the society to conduct examinations, issue licences authorising medical practitioners to prescribe and dispense medicines, and regulate practice. 


The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries.
The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries; 2019.