Apothecaries and healers in the Ottoman history of pharmacy
The easiest access to medication in the Ottoman Empire were the places where doctors, surgeons, oculists and other health care professionals received their patients, and some related stores. Prior to the nineteenth century, pharmacy was not a profession on it's own and there were no pharmacies in Ottoman cities. Deriving from lists of medications purchased for the military hospitals, we can argue that there were Italian and French pharmacists in Istanbul in early nineteenth century. In 1868, there were 44 drugstores run by foreigners in İstanbul - some of whom may have been Ottoman nationals.
Following the opening of the Imperial School of Medicine (Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-i Şahane), a turning point in the modernization of Ottoman medicine, a pharmacy class to train military pharmacists was founded in 1840, followed by the establishment of a pharmacy class in 1873, in the Civilian School of Medicine (Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-i Mülkiye). During the modernization period, doctors, surgeons, oculists, bone settlers and such continued to sell traditional drugs in their stores. Besides herbalists, root dispensers, tonic brewers and paste mixers, barbiers, soap makers, furriers, halva makers and coffee shop owners were also selling their home-prepared mixtures as medication In the19th century, the Ottoman pharmacists tried hard to establish their profession and make progress in their craft, and at the same time, had to compete with ignorant and unlicensed shopkeepers and the traditional health care professionals from which Ottomans were used to get their drugs for hundreds of years. As awareness of improper medication increased, the government started to issue regulations and licenses for the practice of pharmacy, banning unlicensed people and shops from selling drugs and to control the market. The present paper will present some fatality cases caused by ignorant health care professionals and shopkeepers in the late Ottoman era, and focus on the measures that were put into effect to contend with such practices.
Key words: Apothecaries, healers, history of pharmacy, traditional drugs.