Station: [9] Training as a Pharmacist

In the early days, smaller pharmacies didn’t have a dedicated office. For clerical work like writing labels, they made do with a desk area or writing table in the dispensary. But as the paperwork increased (along with the required shelf space for an ever larger collection of reference books), an office soon became part of the essential basic layout.

Until well into the 18th century, the profession of pharmacist, or dispensing chemist, was organised as a trade and involved teaching the next generation. The shift to an academic profession began towards the end of the 18th century, initially with private teaching institutions undertaking the instruction of their own and third-party apprentices. In 1795, Johann Bartholomäus Trommsdorf was the first pharmacist to set up a boys’ boarding school to teach chemistry, physics and pharmacy. Others followed. Bavaria was the first German state to introduce a compulsory two-year university course in 1808. These days, an academic course is the main element in training as a pharmacist, and the most important.

Historical photographs and study certificates evoke memories of that period. In the display case on the wall, you can see manuals and notes from the time Wilhelm Surmann spent as a trainee pharmacist. There are also internship reports, booklets of certificates from the university and several late 18th and 19th century textbooks. Surmann lived from 1857 to 1916. At the media station here on the desk, we’ve provided details about his life and about the stages of his education and training, which took 16-years in all. 

In the early days, in Germany the profession of pharmacist was men-only. It wasn’t until 1906 that the first woman here, one Magdalena Neff from Karlsruhe, was licensed as a pharmacist. These days, 75 per cent of german pharmacists are women.

Currently, anyone who wants to become a pharmacist has to complete a four-year course at university, which involves a great many internships, several tests and state exams. 

At the next stop, which is here in the same room, we’ll tell you something about drugs – though not in the way you may be thinking.

All depictions: © Trüpschuch