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Today, it seems obvious that we take tablets in their current form. Pharmaceutical companies scramble to launch the most convenient form of a particular drug on the market.
Pharmacy was an experimental field in the times we are transported to by the pharmacy exhibition in the house with a turret in the town of Biecz. Pharmacists were not limited to prescriptions and selling ready-made medicines. They also created them. In rooms often referred to as alchemists’ workshops, mysterious mixtures were created, which did not always serve the health of their subsequent users...

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Today, it seems obvious that we take tablets in their current form. Pharmaceutical companies scramble to launch the most convenient form of a particular drug on the market.
Pharmacy was an experimental field in the times we are transported to by the pharmacy exhibition in the house with a turret in the town of Biecz. Pharmacists were not limited to prescriptions and selling ready-made medicines. They also created them. In rooms often referred to as alchemists’ workshops, mysterious mixtures were created, which did not always serve the health of their subsequent users...
Alongside laboratory experiments, an industry was developing in order to make the production of emerging drugs more efficient. In the Museum of Ziemia Biecka you can see the products of the successive stages of this process. In addition to mortars, presses, mixing devices, pharmaceutical pill makers and other mysterious devices in “The house with a turret”, we also present a pharmaceutical tablet maker machine. This device, so far operated manually, became widespread in the 2nd half of the 19th century. The powdered medicinal substance was poured through a special opening (in which a regular funnel was often inserted, so as not to accidentally waste any precious mixture), and was then pressed with a heavy iron piston. In this way, a comfortable and safe (in terms of the dosage of a given drug) tablet was obtained. This was not yet mass-scale production. Pharmacies usually had one pharmaceutical tablet maker machine, which met the customers’ needs.
Nowadays, tablet maker machines, of course, are no longer found in pharmacies, but in huge factories, in which they take up much more space than the nineteenth-century tablet maker machine presented by us.

Elaborated by Kinga Kołodziejska (Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

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On bizarre therapies, dangerous medications and opium-laced baby dummies

Medicine and pharmacy have not always been what they are today. The history of pharmacy and medicine is not only the history of the progress of science, marked by subsequent great discoveries but also a fascinating story about therapies and medications from the past that nobody would dare to try today...

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Wooden apothecary boxes from 18th century, The Museum of Pharmacy at the Jagiellonian University Medical College in Kraków, public domain.

On the 26th of September, it’s Pharmacist’s Day in Poland. On this day, we wish all pharmacists and chemists all the very best! We would also like to remind you that at the Małopolska’s Virtual Museums we present 24 exceptionally interesting objects from the collection of Muzeum Farmacji Collegium Medicum UJ w Krakowie (the Pharmacy Museum of the Jagiellonian University Medical College).

For those who, after they have seen the MVM’s (Małopolska’s Virtual Museums) collections, want to learn even more about the history of medicine, we are eager to assure you that as part of the currently implemented project Wirtualna Małopolska (2016-2020) (Virtual Małopolska (2016–2020)) our website will obtain a much larger collection of exhibits from the Pharmacy Museum of the JUMC. We encourage those who cannot wait to visit the Museum at 25 Floriańska Street – the interiors and atmosphere of an 18th-century pharmacy recreated there serve to leave an enduring impression.

Medicine and pharmacy have not always been what they are today. The history of pharmacy and medicine is not only the history of the progress of science, marked by subsequent great discoveries but also a fascinating story about therapies and medications from the past that nobody would dare to try today – either out of common sense or because some the substances used in the past are now illegal (even if the effects of their use may seem quite pleasant to some). The history of healing is also a story about the long duration of astonishing superstitions, whose popularity resulted from trusting in the authority of past scholars. It is enough to mention such miraculous medical preparations as a potion from a beaver’s testicles or powdered deer horn. Similar miraculous medicines are still popular in traditional Chinese medicine, which sometimes leads to the extinction of rare animal species.

Baby Jesus’ dummie, Albrecht Dürer, Madonna with the Siskin, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, public domain.

Anyone who has read any of the novels on Sherlock Holmes knows that taking cocaine or morphine was not anything surprising in the 19th century. Indeed, many substances which nowadays are considered to be drugs were previously used as a remedy for everything. It is worth mentioning the King of England, George IV, who used to start the day with a dose of a laudanum tincture, which was made on the basis of opium oil. Back when he was still the Prince of Wales and a regent exercising power on behalf of the mentally ill George III, had health problems due to his excessive love of food, alcohol and opium. Back then, he was already sometimes called the Prince of the Whales, which was a witty reference to his corpulent figure and a verbal game based on the identical sound of the nickname Prince of Whales, and the title born by the English heirs to the throne – Prince of Wales. Once he became the king, he contracted gout, cataract and atherosclerosis.

The therapies used by Adolf Hitler were a combination of superstitions and drug addiction. The creator of the drugs taken by the hypochondriac tyrant was the famous slob and boor – Theodor Morell PhD, who was also commonly regarded as a mountebank. The most famous of his medicines taken by the Führer was Vitamultin. Despite its name, it did not contain vitamins at all – among others, it included methamphetamine. Drugs, used as medicines, were still widely available in the 20th century. During World War I, heroin and cocaine could be purchased as medicines. In Great Britain, they could be purchased in pharmacies, at the Harrods department store and in military stores. Some British soldiers staying at the front regularly asked their families to send parcels with these medicines. Over time, the UK government banned the sale of cocaine. Strangely, the use of heroin was not prohibited.

But back to the subject of opiates... The high-morphine variety of bread-seed poppy was used in the past not only for the production of opiates but also to help put children to sleep. Poppy mixed with honey was wrapped in a linen handkerchief and rolled into a ball, and a dummy formed in this way was given to children to suck on. There are known representations of the Mother of God with the Baby Jesus holding such a cumel (a Cracovian regionalism for “a dummy”).

Elaborated by: Adam Spodaryk (Editorial team of Małopolskas Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

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Pharmaceutical tablet maker machine

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