14/01/2012

Surgeon Apothecary

We have noted that following his schooling in Bristol, Beddome was apprenticed to a surgeon apothecary and seems to have taken well to it. He apparently never lost his love for things medical. Two of his sons trained in the same field and he himself, it seems, carried on some form of medical practice in Bourton. It is said that he would often turn to the world of medicine for an apt illustration in his preaching. (Remarks in Memoir, xi, which reveals that Bernard Foskett, like many a nonconformist minister at that time, also had a medical training).
It is perhaps worth noting, therefore, that the term apothecary, often used between the 1600s and 1800s, does not refer to a chemist or druggist but was used for individuals living in London who had passed the examinations of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London, founded in 1617 (a break away from the grocers company), or to their often less well qualified counterparts in the provinces. Although the apothecary's practice included a strong dispensing element, it was more all-encompassing than the handling of drugs and chemicals. Following a ruling in the Rose Case (1701-1703/4), apothecaries became legally ratified members of the medical profession, able to prescribe as well as dispense medicines.
In the 1700s apothecaries were some of the most common medical practitioners. In Bristol in 1775 there were 8 physicians, 56 surgeon-apothecaries and 3 druggists. Medical students could become a surgeon-apothecary without going to university (nonconformists were barred from Oxford and Cambridge until 1828 so it was an obvious route into medicine for them), and could earn a living from minor surgery and dispensing drugs. Under the Apothecaries Act of 1815, apothecaries who took a specified course of training with the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries could be licensed as general practitioners, and were called licentiates.

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