Student Materia Medica

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society donation to Kew included six student materia medica boxes, one of which is on display at the Plants+People Exhibition in Museum No. 1 at Kew. Each of these boxes contains a set of botanical, animal and mineral samples. The boxes vary in size, some holding over 100 small samples of materia medica. Each wooden box has a set of drawers containing the specimens, either in compartments or small vials. A key to each drawer is printed on its lid.

Pharmacy, until the middle of the 20th century relied heavily on the complex knowledge and understanding of the materia medica. Teaching aids, like this materia medica set would have been very familiar to the students of the School of Pharmacy. At the school, classes were taught in chemistry and pharmacy, botany and materia medica, practical chemistry, as well as Latin.

Dr. Jonathan Pereira, Professor of Materia Medica, was one of the first lecturers at the school. In his lectures he emphasised the idea that for pharmacists, the focus was not so much on the therapeutic use of the drugs, but on their history, commerce, morphology and chemistry. It was imperative that pharmacists be able to distinguish pure, unadulterated specimens from impure, low quality drugs.

The Pharmaceutical Society was successful at initiating courses of lectures at local universities, medical schools and technical institutions in association with pharmaceutical organizations all around the country.


EBC Cabinet B

Cabinet B

  • Description: Student materia medica set
EBC Student Materia Medica Drawer

Student Materia Medica Drawer

  • Description: Student materia medica drawer
EBC School of Pharmacy

School of Pharmacy

  • Description: Students in the School of Pharmacy lecture theatre with Professor Greenish, 1931