Engraving by Martin Engelbrecht, 1721. Apothecary is a medical professional who formulates and dispenses materia medica to physicians, surgeons and patients. The modern pharmacist has taken over this role and in some languages and regions the word is still used to refer to a retail pharmacy or a pharmacist who owns one. The apothecaries' investigation of herbal and chemical ingredients was a precursor to the modern sciences of chemistry and pharmacology. From the 15th century to the 16th century, the apothecary gained the status of a skilled practitioner, but by the end of the 19th century, the medical professions had taken on their current institutional form, with defined roles for physicians and surgeons, and the role of the apothecary was more narrowly conceived as that of pharmacist.