"Death or healing. I care not which you seek."
- – An Apothecary's words to live by
An Apothecary is a Space Marine specialist in Warhammer 40,000, combining the roles of medic and geneticist. The senior Apothecary is known as the Master of the Apothecarion (the fortress-monastery's medical center) or Chief Apothecary. They are usually armed with standard Space Marine gear and a Narthecium.
Since Space Marines have undergone genetic augmentations to survive nearly anything, an Apothecary's real battlefield roles involve three jobs: stabilization, mercy killing, and extraction. While Space Marines can endure damn near anything except the most serious injuries, Apothecaries frequently need to stabilize them long enough for their gene-seed to start up and heal them. If a Marine has been too badly injured to be saved or cannot be saved in their current situation, then the Apothecary applies "the Emperor's Peace," a mercy kill by driving a Reductor (a sharpened needle) into the Marine's skull to quickly end his pain (although some Apothecaries use bolt pistols, for some reason). If a Marine has died, it is the Apothecary's duty to extract the progenoid glands from his dead brother, to ensure that the chapter will be able to train a new space marine in the fallen brother's place and ensure the chapter's continued existence. Despite their support role, they often have to be highly skilled fighters in order to cut through the melee to their injured breathren. During the heresy, a World Eaters apothecary was one of the best fighters in a legion of chainaxe wielding psychopaths and still did all the medical stuff.
Off the battlefield, they're basically super doctors. Their duties range from implanting initiates with the gene seed when appropriate, ensure the purity of the chapter's gene seed (or at least make sure it doesn't get any worse), tending to recovering marines, and working on any health-related issues the chapter may task them with, ranging from creating cures for diseases to genetic manipulation. Apothecaries are also required to inter marines into Dreadnoughts, along with an attending Techmarine, as attempting to get a marine's brain to interface with the chassis has a nasty drawback of killing the recipient if not handled correctly.
That's not to suggest they don't actually know any medicine, by the way. The Black Library writers felt insecure, so they put a scene in "Purging of Kadillus" where an Apothecary does leg surgery in the middle of a firefight. The RPGs also suggest that Apothecaries are versed in the specific use of poisons and toxins, preparing the chapter's hellfire rounds. Plus Dawn of War II has Apothecary Gordian synthesizing a cure for Captain Thule after being poisoned by a Tyranid Warrior and also creating a bio-toxin potent enough to poison the entire Hive Fleet in Aurelia.
Fun fact: back in the days of Rogue Trader, they actually were called Medics for a while, but that quickly changed.
7th edition and before
One ordinary Command Squad marine who trades his bolt pistol to grant their squad Feel No Pain. That was pretty much it.
Now treated as a proper character, Apothecaries trade their classic Feel No Pain for actual healing. Once per Movement phase an Apothecary can heal a model for D3 wounds. Alternatively it can roll a die to revive a fallen model, placing it back on the field with 1 wound, provided it rolls a 4+. If this fails the Apoc spends the rest of the shooting and assault phases doing absolutely nothing, to represent him harvesting gene seed.
Chaos being what it is, their apothecaries range from nonexistent to derp to mad scientist. Between the lack of institutionalization and the high priority placed on Rip and Tear, Chaos apothecaries are rare to nonexistent within a single warband. That said, that's not to say they don't exist, but Chaos apothecaries are too rare to be represented on the tabletop, often being relegated to working on new recruits and playing fluffer to the Chaos Lord instead of the battlefield. Some warbands abandon the apothecary idea completely, using their Dark Mechanicum Biologis allies to harvest and process gene-seed from the dead marines (often including the corpses of loyalists and members of rival bands, if the Lord of the band isn't picky), or even inventing new, more… creative ways to breed new marines.
Few Chaos apothecaries really make a name for themselves. There's that Fabulous Bill guy who has fucked things up for the Imperium with his rampant megalomania and successful genetic experiments (which, by the way, has a huge untapped potential in the fluff). There are also mention of a Nurglite, quasizombified apothecary or two floating around somewhere, and the Red Corsairs having right and proper apothecarion, which might have something to do with Huron Blackheart being the only sensible man in charge on the Chaos side. Also, there is Talos of the Night Lords, who is an ex-apothecarius, as mentioned in the book: Death in the void.
8th edition is here and Mortarion is officially making use of "Chaos Apothecaries" in the form of Plague Surgeons. They're plague doctors, as in literal plague doctors because their roles are less about healing and more on cultivating various viral pathogens to use in battle, and also salvaging usable gene-seed from dead marines (in most cases, they aren't picky if they were friend or foe).
Its unknown if Chaos Apothecaries will get any further spotlight, seeing as the Thousand Sons doesn't need them due to sorcery, and the World Eaters will probably be offended at someone needing a doctor when they could just be sucking it up and continue to rip and tear as they die, not to mention most World Eaters lack the traits needed for a scientist/doctor (I.E: An attention to detail and not being frothing psychopaths). The Emperor's Children is likely the biggest candidate for one, as someone has to be in charge of synthesizing up all their combat/recreational drugs, along with saner Undivided Legions.
|Forces of the Blood Angels|
|Command:|| Apothecary - Brother-Captain - Brother-Sergeant - Chaplain |
Chapter Master - Librarian - Sanguinary Priest - Techmarine
|Troops:|| Assault Squad - Devastator Squad - Sanguinary Guard - Scout Squad |
Tactical Squad - Terminator Squad - Veteran Squad
|Death Company:||Death Company - Death Company Chaplain - Death Company Terminator|
|Walkers:|| Contemptor-Furioso Dreadnought - Death Company Dreadnought |
Dreadnought - Furioso Dreadnought - Librarian Dreadnought
|Transports:||Drop Pod - Razorback - Rhino|
|Vehicles:|| Baal Predator - Land Raider (Land Raider Crusader - Land Raider Phobos |
Land Raider Redeemer - Land Raider Angel Infernus)
Predator Tank - Vindicator - Hunter - Stalker - Whirlwind
|Flyers:||Stormhawk - Stormraven - Stormtalon - Storm Eagle - Thunderhawk|
|Allies:||Space Marines - Primaris Marines|
|Forces of the Dark Angels|
|Command:|| Apothecary - Company Master - Interrogator-Chaplain |
Chaplain - Librarian - Techmarine - Deathwing Knight
Dark Angels Grand Master
|Troops:|| Assault Squad - Deathwing - Company Veterans |
Devastator Squad - Scout Squad - Tactical Squad
Ravenwing Black Knight - Watcher in the Dark
|Walkers:|| Dreadnought (Venerable Dreadnought - Contemptor Dreadnought) |
Contemptor-Mortis Dreadnought - Mortis Dreadnought
|Transports:|| Land Raider (Land Raider Phobos - Land Raider Crusader |
Land Raider Redeemer - Land Raider Ares
Land Raider Solemnus Aggressor) - Rhino - Drop Pod
|Vehicles:|| Bike Squad - Razorback - Predator - Vindicator - Hunter |
Stalker - Whirlwind - Land Speeder Vengeance
|Flyers:|| Dark Talon - Nephilim Jetfighter - Stormraven - Storm Eagle |
|Allies:||Space Marines - Primaris Marines|
|Forces of the Grey Knights|
|Command:|| Brotherhood Champion - Grand Master - Librarian |
Techmarine - Chaplain - Apothecary
|Troops:|| Grey Knight Paladin - Interceptor Squad - Justicar |
Purgation Squad - Purifier - Strike Squad - Terminator Squad
|Walkers:||Dreadknight - Doomglaive Dreadnought - Venerable Dreadnought|
|Vehicles:|| Land Raider (Land Raider Crusader - Land Raider Vortimer) |
Rhino - Razorback
|Flyers:||Stormraven - Stormtalon - Stormhawk - Thunderhawk|
|Allies:||Inquisition - Sisters of Battle|