The German Pharmacy Museum in Heidelberg

Admission to the German Pharmacy Museum is included in the ticket for Heidelberg Castle. The museum is located in one of the castle buildings called the Ottheinrichbau, which is mainly a ruin but still has enough usable rooms to house a museum.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, the Ottheinrichbau was named after a man called Otto Heinrich, who was Elector (Kurfürst) of the principality of Pfalz-Neuburg for only three years, from 1556 to 1559. During his short reign, he managed to convert the entire principality from Catholicism to Lutheranism. As you can imagine, he did not rely solely on theological arguments to accomplish this.

The German Pharmacy Museum in Heidelberg

This pharmacy museum says its collection is “worldwide the largest and finest in existence, spanning two thousand years of pharmacy history.”

It is indeed a highly interesting collection, but you should be aware that the museum is owned and run by the German Society of Pharmacists, so the one thing you won’t find here is even the slightest criticism of any pharmacy.

There is no mention of the consumer foundation “Stiftung Warentest”, which in a study in 2010 came to the conclusion that German pharmacies often fail to give proper advice to their customers, failing to warn about known conflicts between medications, for example.

Historic laboratory equipment once used by pharmacists

At the bottom of a long steep stone stairway there is an exhibit of historic laboratory equipment which was used by pharmacists in earlier centuries to develop and manufacture medications.

Like their colleagues the alchemists, with whom they had more in common than their successors now care to admit, pharmacists in the 16th and 17th centuries were influential in the development of laboratory equipment and techniques that helped prepare the way for the modern science of chemistry.

Historic distilling apparatus

After visiting the Pharmacy Museum in Heidelberg, you might also want to have a look at the alchemy exhibit in Weikersheim Palace, about a hundred km to the east, to see how the alchemists were trying to transform ordinary metals into more valuable ones, and ultimately into gold. This seemed like a promising line of research at the time, and just because it didn’t work is no reason for us to look down our noses at them.

My photos in this post are from 2010. I revised the text in 2022.

See more posts on Heidelberg, Germany.

19 thoughts on “The German Pharmacy Museum in Heidelberg”

  1. This looks interesting. I was wondering why I didn’t remember seeing it on our own visit to Heidelberg Castle, and then you mentioned the stone staircase. We were with my wheelchair-using mother in law at the time so would probably have given this a miss on her account.

  2. I visited this part of the Heidelberg Castle almost five years ago, and it was fascinating to see how the Pharmacy Museum showcased the beginnings of modern medicine (and the sometimes kooky concoctions for health)!

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