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Apothecaries' system



The apothecaries' system of mass is an obsolete system formerly used by apothecaries (now called pharmacists or chemists) in English-speaking countries. The system is related to the English avoirdupois and troy systems, as they use the same mass for a grain. Sometimes "ap" is added to the front of the unit to identify it as part of the apothecaries' system (the abbreviation for avoirdupois is "av"). Similar systems had been in use in other European countries.

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During the first half of the 20th century, the apothecaries' system was replaced by the metric system. In the United States, it is still occasionally used, for example with prescribed medicine being sold in six ounce ( vi) bottles. An old maxim related to the problem involved in apothecary weight calculations when converting from avoirdupois weight — a grain is a grain is a grain — the pound weight in each system being different. The apothecary would buy the drugs by avoirdupois and compound and dispense by apothecary weight. Another anomaly, when converting grains to metric weight, 60 mg was considered the same as 64 mg or 65 mg = 1 gr.

Unit Symbol Division Grains Grams
Pound lb 12 ounces 5760 373.241 72
Ounce 8 drams 480 31.103 477
Dram ʒ 3 scruples 60 3.887 9346
Scruple 20 grains 20 1.295 9782
Grain gr. 1 0.064 79891


After the introduction of the imperial gallon (1824), some English apothecaries started using a system of volume that was closely related to the system of mass, taking advantage of the approximate equivalence of weight and volume of water and similar fluids with equal-named units. It was abolished effective 1 January, 1971 after falling out of use.

Unit Symbol Division Minims Millilitres
Gallon gal. 8 pints 76800 4,546.09
Pint pt. 20 ounces 9600 568.261
Ounce oz. 8 drachms 480 28.413
Drachm dr. 3 scruples 60 3.551 633
Scruple sc. 20 minims 20 1.183 878
Minim min. 1 0.059 194
 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Apothecaries'_system". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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