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The History of Pharmacy at Aston

The Birmingham Municipal Technical School entrance
The Birmingham Municipal Technical School entrance
1847 - Establishment of the Birmingham Pharmaceutical Institution. More grandly titled than reality – it offered classes to support people to prepare for the PSGB (Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain) minor and major examinations – that lead to registration. This lasted until 1853 – the year that the foundation stone was laid for the Birmingham and Midland Institute.

There was a period between 1847 and 1860 with little organised provision – some lectures in the Pharmaceutical sciences and material medica at Queens College, opposite the Town Hall.

From 1860 the BPI was re-established located within the BMI and provided education for pharmacy.  The Birmingham Chemists Association was formed 1875 and from this date were the main driver for classes which become much more organised, regular and running in the BMI.  Aston was given the Birmingham Chemists Association run of the Pharmaceutical Journal – one of only 3 nationally which went back to foundation.  We still have it.

1893 – Building of the Birmingham Central Technical College in Suffolk Street.  This opened in 1895 and was one of a large number across the country founded as a result of the Technical Education Act.  William Sumpner was the first head of the college and the teaching activity in pharmacy moved to the college in 1895.   The Central Technical College went through a number of minor name changes but became the Advanced  College of Technology 1957 and the University of Aston in Birmingham 1966.  When the university was formed, the sub-degree work was continued in the Suffolk Street building under the name of Matthew Boulton College – they claim a history back to 1895 but in reality 1966 was a critical break up of the old advanced college into what became MBC, Aston and the third stream was the non-technology courses (e.g. law, business but not called that then) in the Polytechnic.

There was no formal department of pharmacy in the CTC until post the first war – in 1919 the Pharmaceutical Journal announced a new school of pharmacy in Birmingham (the Birmingham School of Pharmacy) in the college headed by Harold Berry – an eminent pharmacy educationalist.

1927 - A formal department of pharmacy was opened in the College (by Neville Chamberlain).  Between 1919 and 1927 pharmacy was a subject area but not recognised by the education committee as a department.  So this is the last date we can claim.

In reality the run of organised classes started in 1860 – so in that sense we can claim an uninterrupted 151 years of Pharmacy education.  The title Birmingham School of Pharmacy has been in use since 1919 in the pharmacy world – so in that sense the school is 92 years old.  Both are verifiable claims. These dates are probably more significant that the 1927 date which is the departmental recognition.

Explore Historic Pharmacy Items from Aston's Collection:

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Pill machine and pill rounder, 19th century.
Pill machine and pill rounder, 19th century.

Explore Historic Photos of Aston's Pharmacy Department:

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Manufacturing and Testing Laboratory, Birmingham Central Technical College c. 1930.
Manufacturing and Testing Laboratory, Birmingham Central Technical College c. 1930.

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