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Pharmacists in transition. Academy and Pharmacy in Mexico from 1833 to 1865

How to cite this article: Morales-Cosme AD, Viesca-Treviño C . Pharmacists in transition. Academy and Pharmacy in Mexico from 1833 to 1865. Rev Med Inst Mex Seguro Soc. 2016;54(1):96-105.



Received: December 10th /2014

Accepted: April 16th 2015

Pharmacists in transition. Academy and Pharmacy in Mexico from 1833 to 1865

Alba Dolores Morales-Cosme,a Carlos Viesca-Treviñoa

aDepartamento de HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF MEDICINE, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Distrito Federal, México

Communication with: Alba Dolores Morales-Cosme


From the second half of the 19th century, health disciplines went through an institutional and professional restructuring, which progressively altered the guild order that had characterized them to that point. In the case of Pharmacy, this process implied the generation of officially recognized spaces, as the chairs of Pharmacy and Medical Substance, founded during the Establecimiento de Ciencias Médicas (Establishment of Medical Sciences) (1833). In those spaces it was sought to institutionalize knowledge and modern practices related to Pharmacy. In this work we look over the first academic experience of the pharmaceutical community in that new space of instruction, based on the records belonging to the students enrolled in the Establecimiento de Ciencias Médicas from 1833 to 1865, year of the enrollment of the last generation. The information contained in those 163 records displays the way the pharmaceutical field was transformed, after the aforementioned restructuring. The reader will notice the diverse normativity, which regulated the joining of pharmacists to academic life (of which, until then, they were excluded). He will also realize how, among the first students enrolled in the Establecimiento de Ciencias Médicas, said normativity was broke in order to adapt it to the known ways of students and professors. Progressively, the guild instruction would be ousted by the institutional instruction (for example, the years of practice in the drugstores were rejected), so that the guild ways of teaching were changing to turn the pharmacist into an individual of institutional instruction.

Keywords: History of medicine; Pharmacy.

Education of the trade

In the second half of the eighteenth century, botany as a specialty practiced by pharmacists was characterized as a useful science without problems , and so scientific expeditions were organized and new centers founded around this field. Developments in the medical field helped to change and move beyond the traditional Galenic therapy. Botanical studies, the implementation of the Linnaean system, and chemical analysis facilitated the work of doctors and pharmacists for the proper use of these resources.1

In colonial times an aspiring apothecary had no training other than that acquired with a teacher approved by the Royal Court of Protomedicato (Real Tribunal del Protomedicato). After four years of practice, the trainee could apply for review before the Court provided they met the requirements of being 25 years or older, having proof of clean blood, and being able to read Latin. With the arrival of the Royal Botanical Expedition (1788), led by the doctor Martin Sessé and pharmacist Vicente Cervantes, the instructional spaces for apothecaries diversified. According to the regulations accompanying the expedition, a garden and a chair of Botany were to be founded, whose course would become mandatory for physicians, surgeons, and pharmacists to present examinations before the Protomedicato. Although the garden and the chair were involved in numerous controversies and resistance both from the Royal University (Real Universidad) and the Royal Court of Protomedicato, the chair in which the principles of Carl Linnaeus’ system and Antoine Laurent de Lavoisier’s chemistry were taught created the platform necessary to promote a new kind of pharmaceutical knowledge and practice.2

Here it is important to emphasize the discipline’s crucial role in changing the model of academic and administrative organization of health professions at the close of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century, a change that was marked by the emergence of the doctor-surgeon as a career, but at which time the recognition of pharmacy as a profession was equally groundbreaking, as well as the arrival of midwives to the institutional setting.

In the field of health disciplines, the first step that broke with the old regime was the abolition of the Royal Court of Protomedicato, issued in 1831 by the doctor, military officer, and president at the time Anastasio Bustamante. According to the emerging regulations that would give life to the Facultad Médica, replacing the Court, the entity would be composed of three doctors, three surgeons, and two pharmacists.

Despite being a limited community, the number of pharmacists who signed the suppression of the Protomedicato almost equaled the doctors, as there were 31 signatories from this discipline, while there were 32 representing pharmacy (Table I). As such, it is worth noting that the social presence of the doctor was challenged by its counterpart, which was made up of surgeons and pharmacists.3 Various publications indicated both the ossification of the medical practice and its poor linkage with the community they were attending.4 In addition, both surgeons and pharmacists at the end of the eighteenth century resisted the authority of doctors to direct and examine them, since they lacked specific knowledge of their disciplines. In this regard, pharmacists undertook initiatives to be examined only by their peers; however, the strong institutional structure of the Protomedicato did not allow such proposals to take hold. Still, doctors, soon after becoming doctor-surgeons, were able to catalyze the eager reformers present among health practitioners and lead efforts to provide the health field with legal and institutional stability.5

Cuadro I Pharmacists who signed the suppression of the Royal Court of Protomedicato (1831)

José Arcinas Miguel Nágera
Gaspar Ortiz Cayetano Delgado
José María Vargas José María Alegre
Gabriel Llera José Aramburu
Cristobal Crespo Vicente Bilchis
José María Bustillos Juan Subeldía
Marcos Arellano Mariano Liz
Juan Yañes Ignacio Baz
Lorenzo Rocha Calixto Oscoy
Leopoldo Riolosa Rafael Martínez
Mariano Alarcón Cleto Bala
Norberto Márquez Victoriano Montes de Oca
Francisco González Muro Manuel Merino, padre
Manuel Merino, hijo José María del Castillo
Cornelio Navega Silverio Aguilar
José María Nieto Miguel Nágera, hijo
Fuente: Exposition given by Manuel de Jesús Febles, physician and teacher to the teachers of Medicine, Surgery, Pharmacy, and Phlebotomy

Among the pharmacists who signed the suppression of the Court are the names of the first teachers and tutors of the new pharmacists of the nineteenth century, including José María Vargas, Professor of Pharmacy starting in 1833; José María Bustillos, owner of the Porta Coeli pharmacy and member of the School of Medicine (Facultad Médica); and Leopoldo Río de la Loza, mainstay of the discipline throughout the century. These individuals’ pharmacies were alluded to as places of instruction during the first years of the Medical Sciences Establishment (Establecimiento de Ciencias Médicas), founded in 1833.   

The establishment represented the space in which the theoretical and practical developments discussed during the colonial era materialized. The career of doctor-surgeon was instituted in the new center, which finally united theoretical with practical knowledge, and pharmaceutical studies were recognized within the institution as well.6 New doctor-surgeons had to take 11 subjects over five years of schooling, while the pharmaceutical curriculum consisted of a single course of study: pharmacy, which took two years, and then the applicant had to do practical training with a licensed pharmacist for another two years. These provisions invariably informed the professional character that faced pharmaceutical instruction. The course of study was also part of the curriculum for physicians who were studying with the same teacher, José Vargas, for one year.

The academic experience begins. First stage 1833-1847

Chapter IV of the October 23rd, 1833 decree creating the Medical Sciences Establishment indicated that, to be admitted to study pharmacy, one must previously have studied courses of Latin, French, Physics, Botany, and Chemistry.

The establishment did not have to wait long for their first pharmacy students. In December 1833 seven candidates enrolled. They were Joaquín Carbajal, Manuel Hoyal, Manuel Lazo, Martín Gascón, Luis Figueroa, Mariano Alarcón, and José María Lemus, son of the pharmacist José Narciso Lemus. However, only three of them claimed to have one of the required preparatory courses. That course was Latin, a fact that is explained because it was a requirement throughout the colonial era, and one which they rushed to prove.

In addition to Latin there were two prerequisite courses that the pharmacy students did not avoid in the years studied here: Chemistry and Botany. Since the study of chemistry was instituted in New Spain, it was a practice associated with the mining profession, although it would soon be linked to the work of doctors and pharmacists. Until 1843, the National Mining Seminary (Seminario Nacional de Minería) was the place visited by medical school applicants. The Seminary had illustrious professors like Joaquín Velázquez de León (1803-1882) and José Manuel Herrera (1782-1856). 

The other prerequisite course most often taken was Botany. The Botanical Garden that the chair depended on was a space of continuity for pharmacists of the new regime, as it was favored by independent governments, who strove to secure it a budget. Upon the death of Vicente Cervantes in 1829, the chair of Botany was placed in the care of his son Julián Cervantes, but it was mostly attended by Miguel de Bustamante y Septién, who until 1844, the year of his death, signed the proofs for the School of Medicine applicants; he was subsequently replaced by his nephew Pío Bustamante.

In this sense we can say that the theoretical developments formally introduced in the second half of the eighteenth century had been incorporated into the training of pharmacy students (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Prerequisite courses for aspiring pharmacists

In order to meet the prerequisites, aspiring pharmacists had to attend the existing schools in the city. For example, Latin and French courses could be taken in schools in San Juan de Letrán and San Gregorio, although a pharmacist, Domingo Garduño, had time to take the classical language in the ephemeral Establishment of Ecclesiastical Sciences (Establecimiento de Ciencias Eclesiásticas). Moreover, students from nearby provinces had passed the courses in colleges or institutes of letters their hometowns. 

With the creation of the Superior Health Council (Consejo Superior de Salubridad), in 1841, the registration requirements included submitting a bachelor's degree in arts (Article 24) or submitting proof of having studied Latin Grammar, Logic, Mathematics, and Physics, along with Chemistry, Botany, and French. The most long-standing regulation of the Superior Health Council, issued on January 24th, 1842, however, failed to mention the Bachelor of Arts as a prerequisite, as it only listed these courses.

As will be seen below, the Santana-era plan of August 18th, 1843 would give a twist to the prerequisites to enroll in the School of Medicine, by establishing so-called preparatory courses, compliance with which helped the systematization of pharmacy studies. However, during the early years of institutional training, the varied regulations allowed aspiring pharmacists to avoid meeting requirements by applying for exemptions or claiming they belonged to times before the regulation was issued. For example, José Ortega, enrolled in 1835 and a protégé of Rafael Cevallos, virtually declared that he would not present a degree in philosophy or bachelor’s because of not having studied, nor was this a prerequisite when I started .7 In addition, difficulties in aligning academic calendars of local or provincial educational institutions where the prerequisites were done prevented or delayed the entry of applicants. However, a fact that sticks out from this first stage is that the students tried to fulfill some of the prerequisites, but not the subject specifically addressed to them, that is, the Pharmacy course of study.

Although the 19 enrolled between 1833 and 1840, i.e. before the establishment of the Superior Health Council, enrolled in the first class of Pharmacy, they do not appear in the records to have finished the subject nor to have tried to register for the second class. In these circumstances the only two graduates in that period were: Domingo Garduño (graduated in 1834)8 and José Salazar (graduated in 1838),9 who passed the course with an exam, that is to say, they did not attend the class. In the early years of the council, this situation changed little. It seems that for the first generation of pharmacists, the option of institutional training was insignificant against the continuity of instruction in the trade, which the regulations of the time supported. 

The Superior Health Council and pharmacy-schools

Between 1833 and 1840, 19 aspiring pharmacists enrolled, i.e. almost three per year, while 26 were recorded in 1841. In that year the Superior Health Council was instituted, an entity which, together with the Medical Sciences Establishment, led the existence of health disciplines in the nineteenth century.

The powers of the Council included authorizing examinations for physicians, surgeons, pharmacists, midwives, and phlebotomists. For this, a review was made of the applicant’s documents to demonstrate that they had met the registration requirements, had taken and passed the pharmacy department exams, and had gotten the required practice. After satisfying the requirements, they were granted permission for the final exam, and in case of passing, the council recorded the licensure. The new institution also took care of monitoring the practice of those physicians, for example through inspection visits to the pharmacies, although its influence was limited to the capital of the Republic.10

The first regulation governing the existence of the council, issued on January 4th, 1841, established in Article 26 a limit of 15 days for pharmacy practitioners to come to the school to begin the corresponding courses. According to the same article, pharmacists from outside , unable to come to the capital to take the courses, could present the exam after six years of practice. The time limit set by the article explains the increase in enrollment.

Moreover, Article 50 allowed those students who are not of the Medical Sciences Establishment of Mexico to be admitted to the general examination if they proved having completed their theoretical and practical studies in a public school. In the council regulations issued a year later, this resolution was included in Article 46, which several enrolled students took advantage of, as a sign that education in the trade was ongoing, as the pharmacies were identified as their place of instruction.

The first pharmacist to take the general exam under Article 50 was Mónico Rubalcaba, who claimed in 1841 to have accumulated more than ten years of practice alongside Marcos Arellano, a renowned pharmacist, professor, and Council official. In this case, the Medical Sciences Establishment secretary, Manuel Robredo, did not hesitate to validate Rubalcaba’s education in the trade, since...

The pharmacy offices have been in the Republic and in many areas still are today the only public schools of this important branch of the art of healing, and the teachers who run them have been authorized by law not only to teach protégés, but to issue them certificates empowering them to be admitted to the exam.11

In this case one must note the affinity Robredo showed to the pharmacy and pharmacists, since in 1839 he was among the founders of the Academy of Pharmacy (Academia de Farmacia).12 In 1841, when the Academy began the work that would lead to publishing the first Mexican pharmacopoeia, Mariano Lara enrolled, presenting himself as the owner of the pharmacy on the Tercera Calle del Rastro, hoping to have his years of practice in the Ignacio Baz’s pharmacy from 1826 to 1830 recognized, and to be admitted to the general examination. Lara’s training, like that of Rubalcaba, had taken place before the creation of the Medical Sciences Establishment, so the new secretary of the institution, Manuel Jimenez, yielded, considering:

if the theoretical courses that formerly were verified in the same office where the practice was acquired, fall within the requirements of Article 50 of the order, or clearer, if one of these offices can be called a public school, I find no obstacle to access for this application.13

One more practicing pharmacist whose education in the trade was recognized was Manuel Urbina, enrolled in 1845.14 Urbina started his training in 1819 and finished in 1823, i.e., during the transition from colonial rule to independence. His record was validated by José María Bustillos, with whom Urbina had trained in the renowned pharmacy Porta Coeli, where he worked alongside Leopoldo Río de la Loza. 

The cases mentioned show the coexistence in the Medical Sciences Establishment of pharmacists in training with experienced pharmacists who had been trained towards the end of the colonial era and who, perhaps due to the stages of change experienced in their professional practice, had been left out of any formal recognition. However, new applicants also came to the Medical Sciences Establishment who, by appealing to practical training, tried to stay out of the institutional framework that governed them.

Such was the case of Luis Figueroa, who claimed to have started his training on October 28th, 1833 (five days after the creation of the Medical Sciences Establishment) and to have finished on January 1st, 1841, just as the Council was instituted.15 That is, he held that his practice was outside of the institutional regulations of the new regime. Manuel Jiménez tried to challenge Figueroa’s arguments, reminding him that the theoretical pharmacy courses already existed when the candidate began his practice (although they had only existed for five days); however, he could not contradict the exemption from theoretical courses granted by the government of the Municipality, so Figueroa was admitted to midterms and then the final exam.

Meanwhile, Mariano Maldonado, a resident of Queretaro, initiated his record in 1841, but then took a break from his time in school. Seven years later he returned to claim his right to examination because he had had pharmaceutical practice during all those years; in other words, he worked around existing institutions to appeal to the education acquired in the trade. 

Reluctant to equate a school with an pharmacy, the secretary of the establishment, Jiménez, soon deemed ridiculous the requests that applicants brought asking to have their education in the trade recognized (Latin and certificates of two or more years of practice).16 However, the frequency with which they were presented at the School of Medicine was persuasive enough to have to recognize that the pharmacies served as places of instruction, but not before urging his institution to define the appropriate role of education for pharmacists.  

The last student admitted to the general exam under Article 46 was presented in 1847. It was Ricardo Ramírez, originally from Santa María Tequisquiapan, where he was born in 1814. This pharmacist claimed classic education in the trade in his application. At the age of seven he had arrived at his tutor’s house, Procopio Moredia y Caraveo, with whom he grew up and learned the craft until age 18. In 1835, Moredia issued him a certificate stating that Ramírez had practiced more than the time necessary.17 Later, in 1833, when Ramírez already considered himself an accomplished practitioner, he began working with José María Bustillos, owner of the famous pharmacy Porta Coeli, where he worked for ten years. Finally, Ricardo Ramírez was accepted to the final exam and obtained his registration.   

When Ramírez was admitted to examination, the secretary of the School of Medicine could not help but express his disappointment to see that these cases were still presenting themselves, so he reminded him that Article 26 had set a limit of 15 days for pharmacy practitioners to appear before the Establishment to begin their instruction, but as despite repeated indications made by the Council of Health, passes have been given to people who have not met that condition, I fear that that is annulled or not in practice.18

And the legislation was varied and numerous. As an example we will say that between 1841 and 1847, the 39 enrolled students who were admitted to general examination did it under 12 different articles of two regulations issued by the Council and two supplementary decrees. Among these items, the one most repeated was 46, given than 11 enrollees entered the exam under this legal basis, i.e. 30%. Considering that of the 39 enrolled, 19 did not take the subject of Pharmacy, but only passed the exam, we have almost 50% of students enrolled in the establishment only in order to register their title with the Council. In other words, for students, the establishment was just a substitute for the Protomedicato, whose main function was to examine those who wanted to practice Pharmacy.

It can be said that in the 40’s of the nineteenth century the pharmacy was still in a phase of transition between the instructional framework inherited from the colony, and the one being built in independent Mexico.

Tutors and pharmaceutical dynasties

Taking the year 1847 as a reference, being the last in which a student who presented was approved based on Article 46, we have 85 enrolled students, 41 of whom reported a tutor, while in later years, i.e. from 1848 to 1865, of the 78 enrolled, only eight provided that data. Despite the progressive decline of registration, it is possible to identify pharmaceutical dynasties with their origins in the colonial era, continuing into the nineteenth century.

First we can look at the succession of the teacher of the Pharmacy class, José María Vargas, who during the years studied was direct tutor of four practitioners, including his own son José Homobono Vargas (1834).19 The distinguished professor of Pharmacy was a professional from the old regime, as his title dated from 1813, the year in which true education in the trade would hardly have predicted that he would become professor at a medical school, treasurer, or faculty member, as it came to be in 1854.

Another lineage with roots in the colonial era was that of Gaspar Ortiz Rodríguez, tutor of three students, including his son Joaquín Ortiz Cervantes (enrolled in 1841), who in turn was the grandson of Vicente Cervantes.20 It is no wonder that Joaquín Ortiz also claimed to have been taught by Pablo Almería, the pharmacist of the Hospital of San Andrés, where his grandfather had acquired great fame. Later, his good schooling would manifest itself when he went from protégé to tutor for aspiring students who were trained in the pharmacy Relox, which Joaquín Ortiz inherited from his grandfather.21  

Another pharmacist with descendants was José María Bustillos, who was claimed by five candidates as their tutor, including his son Evaristo Bustillos (1841).22 The second husband of Río de la Loza’s mother had obtained his degree in 1823. The administrative changes in the health institutions of the new regime gave him positions first as a pharmacist member of the School of Medicine, and later as a Pharmacy teacher at the Medical Sciences Establishment; in 1842 he was also customs visitor for the Superior Health Council. The Bustillos dynasty was related to the one that would train Leopoldo Río de la Loza over the course of the century. In the register of enrollees that we have, Río de la Loza is reported as tutor of Manuel Arellano y Gómez, Manuel Urbina, and his son Maximino Río de la Loza, who progressively gained a place as a teacher and synod to students of the institution.    

In this account it is worth noting José María Alegre y Urbina as the pharmacy teacher reported by the most protégés, five direct and two practitioners who were trained next to José María Palmero in his pharmacy located on Mariscala Street. The professor took the name Urbina, which identifies the pharmacist family of the nineteenth century; however, the baptismal records corresponding to both Manuel Urbinas registered in 1843 and 1857, respectively, do not clarify family ties.23 Alegre earned his pharmacy license in 1819, so he had more than 14 years of experience at the opening of the Medical Sciences Establishment.

The identification of these pharmacy families settled in Mexico City would be completed with the addition of those in neighboring territories where students came from to enroll in school. In the records from 1833 to 1865, the place with the most students registered, after Mexico City, was Querétaro with 14, followed by Michoacán with six, San Luis Potosí and Puebla with four,24 while Guanajuato, Tulancingo, and Toluca had three practitioners, respectively. Foreign pharmacists enrolled in the school for exams and to register their titles, including two from France, one from Piedmont, another from Salamanca, and one who identified himself as a practitioner from Central America.

The professor and the synod

In the early years of academic pharmaceutical experience, there was great variety in the circumstances of training in regard to registration prerequisites, regulations to follow, and schools of origin; however, within this diverse panorama one can recognize elements provided by the School of Medicine itself that brought stability in the training of pharmacists. These elements include the continuity that José María Vargas gave the chair of Pharmacy, as well as the textbook that guided the subject, and the constant presence of pharmacy teachers who accompanied students at the time of certification.

José María Vargas was head of the subject of Pharmacy from 1833 to 1875. He was a member of the Academy of Medicine of Mexico (Academia de Medicina de Méjico), founded in 1836, and collaborator of the Journal of the Academy (Periódico de la Academia), its disseminator, in which he participated with issues about medicine and the new chemical nomenclature.

Starting in 1838, the head of the chair of Pharmacy decided to use as a textbook the Treaty of Theoretical and Practical Pharmacy, by the French author Eugène Souberain, head of the Central Pharmacy of the civil hospitals and hospices in Paris.25 The book remained in force until 1855, when they began using other authors such as Le Canu, author of Cours complet de Pharmacie (1842), although Souberain continued to appear in the curriculum until the end of the century.

Among the merits of Souberain, he had participated in the work of the French pharmacopoeia published in 1837. He is considered, along with Liebig, one of the discoverers of chloroform (1831), which would be used as an anesthetic in 1847.26 For this French national, pharmacy was the art of preparing medicines , for which knowledge of the physical and natural sciences was required, so he guaranteed that in his Treatise readers would find the fundamentals of chemistry, physics, and natural history. The second volume of the Treaty includes a comprehensive chapter on Especially chemical drugs offering an illustrative summary of the concepts then handled in the field of modern chemistry, such as atoms, molecules, forces of cohesion and affinity, as well as details of nomenclature. Souberain’s book was referred to in the First Mexican Pharmacopoeia as one of the essential texts every pharmacist should have.

Like Vargas, Leopoldo Río de la Loza was a long-lived and constant teacher. As a professor of medical chemistry, he was at the forefront of his subject from 1845 to 1876. However, Río de la Loza had already appeared years ago as a substitute teacher for José María Vargas. Río de la Loza was a transitional character, as his titles of doctor, surgeon, and pharmacist were validated by institutions of the old regime; however, he contributed significantly to forming the new entities that would sustain Medicine and Pharmacy in the nineteenth century.27 In this regard, as secretary of the Superior Health Council in his first term, his job was to review students’ documents to grant them access to the general exam.

Rafael Martínez, graduated in 1829, together with Vargas and Río de la Loza, made up the most common tribunal for pharmacy students’ professional exams (Figure 2). He was added as a teacher to the chair of Pharmacy in 1841 and, although he was not an official member of the Academy of Medicine of Mexico, he was frequently mentioned in the Journal by writers reporting pharmaceutical preparations.

Figure 2 Pharmacy synods, 1833-1865

After the deaths of Vargas and Leopoldo Río de la Loza, pharmacists enrolled in the second generation in the 50’s began to emerge, including Río de la Loza’s own son, Maximinio,28 examined in 1854 and subsequently incorporated as a professor; and Gumesindo Mendoza (1834-1884),29 enrolled in 1855 and professor of Chemical Analysis starting in 1878; Anastasio Peñuñuri, who had been Vargas’ adjunct; plus the most important pharmacist in the last third of the nineteenth century, Alfonso Herrera (1838-1901), enrolled in 1854.30

Second stage: 1847-1865

The Santana-era plan of August 18th, 1843 seemed to join with various education projects previously issued with the intention of standardizing public education. However, along with the plan came news that would soon manifest in the training of pharmacists registered in the Medical Sciences Establishment, known starting in 1843 as the National School of Medicine (Escuela Nacional de Medicina).

Article 48 of the plan provided that, in order to be admitted to the School of Medicine, one had to prove six years of preparatory studies, four of which in other public schools, since their content corresponded to the previously established registration prerequisites. The fifth preparatory year was dedicated to the study of Medical Physics and Natural History, while in the sixth preparatory year was the continuation of Natural History and Medical Chemistry.

The subjects of Medical Physics and Chemistry, responsibility of the teachers Ladislao de la Pascua and Río de la Loza, respectively, were the latest additions to the medicine and pharmacy curriculum.31 The impact of the subjects was not immediate, but once reinforced, it was definitive in students’ training. Preparatory courses not only supported the normalization of the registration process, it also had an impact on the study of the chair of Pharmacy and the graduation rates. That is, the fact that students enrolled in the School of Medicine to complete the preparatory courses meant that they would then continue their training, pursuing a course aimed at the professional career (Table II).

Cuadro II Number of students enrolled and graduate from1833 to 1865

Years Number of students enrolled

Course passed with an exam

Course taken

Preparatory courses
(from 1843)

1833-1836 14 1 0 0 1
1837-1840 6 1 0 0 1
1841-1844 44 13 14 1 27
1845-1848 22 7 9 6 10
1849-1853 14 0 7 12 5
1854-1857 21 0 11 15 9
1858-1861 13 0 12 11 7
1862-1865 29 0 28 27 18

However, progress in the process of institutionalization meant the loss of previously important components, including reference to a pharmacy teacher who ceased to be considered as a significant factor in the applicant’s professional career, so that that element tended to disappear. Despite this, the continuity of pharmaceutical lineages remained relevant, as the saga of the Lazo de la Vegas or the Río de la Lozas is recognized among those enrolled in the second half of the century.

In addition, subjection to regulations is shown in reference to the Council’s regulation article, authorizing the general examination of graduates in the second stage. The most cited article was number 74 of the January 24th, 1842 regulations, which simply to allowed students who had been examined in the midterms to take the general exam for the career.

It should also be noted that the First Mexican Pharmacopoeia was published in 1846 as a result of the work of several pharmacists whose intention was to form a national pharmacy. Beside this project a discourse was outlined for school teachers published by the Journal of the Academy of Medicine of Mexico (Periódico de la Academia de la Medicina de Méjico), against practical or empirical doctors and pharmacists, calling into question the health disciplines.

Under these circumstances, pharmacists’ training became progressively more institutional, and although its presence remained minor within the School of Medicine, its importance was growing, as shown by the curriculum set in 1867, when it went from one subject to three, as the chair of Pharmacy added the courses of General History of Drugs, with Alfonso Herrera, and Chemical Analysis, whose first teacher was Leopoldo Río de la Loza. It must be remembered that the curricular changes in 1867 were part of the new Organic Law of Education (Ley Orgánica de Instrucción Pública) that created the National Preparatory School (Escuela Nacional Preparatoria). As a result of the application of the law, courses of Medical Physics and Medical Chemistry moved into the preparatory school.

In the next third of the nineteenth century, pharmacists outlined a plan to become their own school, an argument based on the specificity of their discipline, which became ever more closely related to chemistry and further from medicine;32 this project had the active participation of the descendants of the first generations of pharmacists who made the discipline’s first academic and institutional experience.


In the early nineteenth century pharmacists went through a transitional stage between the framework of education in the trade, and institutional frameworks constructed in the new scene of independence. The changes included, on the one hand, curricular aspects represented by the courses of Botany, Chemistry, and the new chair of Pharmacy, while on the other hand it brought social transformations as they involved the breaking of structures of the trade that had long determined the way in which pharmacists related, taught, and validated their knowledge.

However, during the formation of the new teaching guidelines, forms of teaching persisted in which the tutor was the best guarantor of the student’s proper training. The persistence of tutelage not only expressed attachment to old ways of learning, it still assumed the best way to guarantee the acquisition of technical skills, besides representing the integration of the student into a specific social and professional group. In other words, it was a way to give continuity to family, business, and professional lineages through which social prestige was reached. Furthermore, the fact of small communities allowed personalized and therefore more effective training. Not surprisingly, recent educational theories report achieving quality standards and student engagement with the group that they are being trained for, as advantages of tutelage.

But with changing values ​​and professional references brought by the turn of the century and regime change, this instruction was spurned by deeming the practical pharmacist a relic of old orders that had to be overcome, so becoming pharmacists with institutionalized instruction was one thing that allowed these individuals to demarcate their professional practice and advance in the field of pharmaceutical professionalization.


This article is the result of a postdoctoral grant supported by the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT), registration number 84078.

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Conflict of interest statement: The authors have completed and submitted the form translated into Spanish for the declaration of potential conflicts of interest of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, and none were reported in relation to this article.

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