Tradition and science in the world of Harry Potter

I’m very excited about the release of the last Harry Potter movie this week. And once again immersing myself in Harry Potter’s world.

It’s probably no news to you that so much of that world is based on history and traditions - that’s part of what makes the stories so rich.

The National Library of medicine explores these roots through an online exhibition highlighting the alchemy, astrology, and natural philosophy from the renaissance traditions that played such an important role in the development of Western science

National Library of Medicine World of Harry Potter

The exhibition has six sections that incorporate work of 15th and 16th century thinkers, matching them with various subjects at Hogwards and Harry’s world. Explore Potions, Monsters, Herbology, Magical Creatures (including the unicorn), fantastic beasts, and immortality.

Millions of readers have followed Harry to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he discovers his heritage, encounters new plants and animals, and perfects his magical abilities. Although a fantasy story, the magic in the Harry Potter books is partially based on Renaissance traditions that played an important role in the development of Western science, including alchemy, astrology, and natural philosophy. Incorporating the work of several 15th- and 16th-century thinkers, the seven-part series examines important ethical topics such as the desire for knowledge, the effects of prejudice, and the responsibility that comes with power.

As a bonus for educators, the National Library of Medicine has put together lesson plans and a bibliography.

Access the site at:


Tricia (


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