The Apothecary Shop As A Social Gathering Place


The Apothecary Shop As A Social Gathering Place


Promotional 17th century Delft reproduction ceramic pill tile produced by the Burroughs, Wellcome & Co. for their Pharmacy Scholarship Program. The front of the tile depicts a group of people having a discussion while standing outside of the apothecary. The top of the tile depicts unicorns flanking a small Wellcome coat of arms. The following description is glued to the back of the tile on a piece of paper. "In the 18th Century in Europe, people often gathered outside their local apothecary shop to discuss the latest events of the day. It was a time of momentous happenings, both on the scale of world events and on the scale of scientific discoveries. Pharmacists were often the most available and sometimes the only representatives of the natural sciences in a community, and willingly disseminated the new scientific knowledge among their fellow citizens. First the American Revolution in 1776, and then the French Revolution in 1789, shook people around the world from an attitude of passive resignation into one of active participation in all levels of thinking. Inventions abounded: the power of steam was harnessed by James Watt in 1750, that of lightning and electricity by Benjamin Franklin in 1752, and that in a battery by Alessandro Volta in the late 1700s. In 1783, the Montgolfier brothers lifted off in their famous balloon, and the following year the first mail was delivered by coach in London. Gaslight was introduced into cities in 1807. In the world of medicine and pharmacy, the old battled the new. Bloodletting, cupping and purging were still respected practices. Healthcare practitioners still administered large, often fatal doses of mercury and arsenic, or the ineffective but durable Theriac, a holdover from medicine in the Middle Ages. Epidemics raged on, including cholera, bubonic plague, typhus, malaria and diphtheria. But new scientific thinking began to lead to real medical progress. Antoine Lavoisier developed the first workable understanding of the respiratory system (although he was beheaded for his efforts!), and Joseph Priestly earned distinction for the discovery of oxygen. William Withering isolated digitalis to cure dropsy in 1785, Edward Jenner stunned the world with his vaccination technique against smallpox in 1798, and Friedrich Seturner proved the merits of morphine. Indeed, suddenly there was a lot for the public to think about and to discuss on street corners. This handcrafted Delft porcelain tile has been commissioned by Burroughs Wellcome to commemorate its ongoing Pharmacy Scholarship Program. The support of pharmacists like yourself has enabled us for many years to aid deserving students in completing their pharmacy education. Thank you for your commitment to the future of pharmacy. (BW-Y03477)."



Tiles copyrighted by Burroughs, Wellcome & Co.







6 in x 6 in

Temporal Coverage

Original Format


Burroughs, Wellcome & Co., “The Apothecary Shop As A Social Gathering Place,” American Institute of the History of Pharmacy Digital Collection, accessed May 21, 2024,