The Progress of Pharmacists


The Progress of Pharmacists


Promotional 17th century Delft reproduction ceramic pill tile produced by the Burroughs, Wellcome & Co. for their Pharmacy Education Fund. The front of the tile depicts a pharmacist standing behind their counter using balances while preparing medications for a waiting patron. There are two serpents on top of the shelves holding the drug jars. Two unicorns are depicted in the upper corners of the tile. The following description is glued to the back of the tile on a piece of paper. "The highly developed science of pharmacy has been with us since antiquity. But its rapid development would not have been possible without the tremendous scientific progress that was made in the 17th Century Europe. This was especially true in Holland, where religious freedom was well tolerated. Such an atmosphere provided many of the arts and sciences with fertile ground in which to flourish, and it was during this time that scientific experimentation replaced religious speculation throughout Europe. Thus, Galileo proved that the sun is at the center of the solar system, Newton explained planetary motion in terms of universal gravitation, and von Leeuwenheok invented the microscope. Pharmacists, too, began to make substantial strides in the medical sciences. The great progress pharmacists made in the 1600s is evident in the medicine that was prominently displayed in their apothecaries. The medicine consisted of particular chemicals and minerals, and was used to treat specific diseases. This kind of therapy took the place of traditional herbal remedies and laid the foundation for modern pharmaceutical prescriptions. A severe blow was dealt to the "doctrine of the four humours" as people began to recognize the curative properties of these products, and the fact that medicine acted on targeted ailments. In addition, pharmacists collected and analyzed patient responses and started to explain medical phenomena scientifically. Patient contact thus increased and patient confidence soared with the new successes. Pill tiles were used to prepare medication in apothecary shops; they were awarded to pharmacists upon completion of their formal training and in recognition of their service to the community. In keeping with this fine tradition, Burroughs, Wellcome & Co. commissioned craftsmen in Delft, Holland, to create a series of handmade pill tiles. This tile is part of a limited edition series. (BW-1051)."



Tiles copyrighted by Burroughs, Wellcome & Co.







6 in x 6 in

Temporal Coverage

Original Format


Burroughs, Wellcome & Co., “The Progress of Pharmacists,” American Institute of the History of Pharmacy Digital Collection, accessed July 23, 2024,