Society of Apothecaries of London

Worshipful Society of Apothecaries

The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London. Originally, apothecaries, or pharmacists, were members of the Grocers' Company. The apothecaries separated from the Grocers in 1617, when they were granted a Royal Charter, and during the rest of the 17th century its members (including Nicholas Culpeper) challenged the monopoly of the College of Physicians.

The Apothecaries Act 1815 granted the Society the power to license and regulate practitioners of medicine throughout England and Wales. Today, the Society retains such a role as a member of the United Examining Board. Also, the Society grants diplomas in general areas such as Medical Jurisprudence, Medical History, Medical Philosophy, and in specialized fields such as HIV Medicine.

The Society of Apothecaries is well-known due to its foundation of the Chelsea Physic Garden in Chelsea, London, in 1673, one of the oldest botanical gardens in Europe, and the second oldest in Britain. After Sir Hans Sloane granted the Society the use of the Manor of Chelsea, the four acre (16,000 m²) garden became the richest collection of medicinal plants in Europe, under the direction of Philip Miller. Under its seed exchange program, originally initiated with the Leiden Botanical Garden, cotton was planted for the first time in the colony of Georgia. Jealously guarded during the tenure of the Society, in 1983 the Garden became a registered charity and was opened to the general public for the first time.

The Society is based at Apothecaries' Hall in Blackfriars. The original Hall was Cobham House, purchased in 1632. This building was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. A new Hall was built on the same site and completed in 1672 to the designs of Edward Jerman. An Elaboratory was included for the first ever large-scale manufacture of drugs. A major restoration and building programme was carried out in the 1780s. Although the Hall underwent major re-development in the 1980s, its external appearance has altered little since the late-eighteenth century. It is the oldest extant livery company hall in the City, with the first-floor structure and arrangement of the Great Hall, Court Room and Parlour remaining as re-built between 1668 and 1670.

The Society, which is the largest of the Livery Companies, is the fifty-eighth in the order of precedence for Livery Companies. Its motto is Opiferque Per Orbem Dicor, a Latin reference to the Greek deity Apollo, meaning I Am Called a Bringer of Help Throughout the World.

Notable people who qualified in medicine as a Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries (LSA) include John Keats, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, who thereby became the first woman to gain a medical qualification in the UK, and Ronald Ross.

The Society is a member of the London Museums of Health & Medicine.

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