The Rise and Fall of the Apothecaries' Assistants 1815 - 1923
Adams, Derek Westwood
The central theme of this work is the elucidation of the circumstances that led to the decline of the apothecaries’ assistants. The Apothecaries Act (1815) formerly recognised them as dispensers of medicine and provided an appropriate examination and qualification. Initially, starting in 1850, men were the only candidates for the examination and it was not until 1887 that the first woman qualified. From that time the occupation became increasingly popular among young women, as it provided them with respectable employment dispensing medicines in institutions and doctors’ surgeries. This situation prevailed until The National Insurance Act (1911) transferred almost all the dispensing to the chemists and druggists. This dissertation examines the aspirations of the Pharmaceutical Society, the Society of Apothecaries, the government and the assistants themselves, all of whom were intimately involved in the changes brought about by the Act. While much has been written about medical history in the nineteenth century, little interest has been shown in the apothecaries’ assistants who were the main dispensers of medicines for a period of about 70 years. This thesis advances our understanding on this subject. Additionally, as most of the assistants were women from middle class families, it opens a window on the social and cultural changes that these young women and their families were experiencing in the second half of the nineteenth century.