Although perceived as sheer fantasy by many, the magic depicted in the Harry Potter novels by author J.K. Rowling can be traced to Renaissance traditions that played a pivotal role in the development of modern science and medicine.
The UC San Diego Libraries have been selected by the U.S. National Library of Medicine to host “Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine,” a traveling exhibit that sheds light on the Renaissance traditions featured in the Harry Potter canon. The “show” runs May 6 through June 16 at Geisel Library.
Making its second appearance in California, the exhibit includes materials from the National Library of Medicine’s collections — including six illustrated banners describing the practices (alchemy, herbology, astrology and natural philosophy) depicted in the world of wizardry created by Rowling. The exhibit will be accompanied by a series of lectures by UCSD faculty members.
• An opening reception will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday, May 10 in the Seuss Room in Geisel Library with Potter-themed refreshments and entertainment. It will be followed by a 4 p.m. talk titled, “Harry Potter and the Magic of Books,” by Seth Lerer, dean of Arts & Humanities at UCSD.
• On May 17, from noon to 1 p.m. in the Biomedical Library Events Room, Pathology Professor Dr. Henry Powell will trace the development of medicine. His talk is titled, “From Beliefs and Spells to the Scientific Method: A Long, Slow Journey for the Art of Medicine.” Powell is a world authority on experimental neuropathology, and a former chair of the UCSD Academic Senate.
• On May 24, from noon to 1 p.m. in the Seuss Room, Literature Professor Stephen Potts will give a talk on “Harry Potter and the Secrets of Order: Knowledge and Power from Renaissance to Hogwarts.”
Potts, who teaches classes on Harry Potter, young adult fiction, and children’s literature, will discuss the influence of the magical tradition on the scientific revolution and the ethical issues that surfaced, as knowledge became a real power for change.
• On May 31, from 3 to 4 p.m. in the Science & Engineering Library Events Room in the Geisel Library, Professor Ronald Graham, one of the world’s best known mathematicians, computer theorists, and technology visionaries, will explain the math behind magic in his talk, “Juggling Mathematics and Magic.”
Graham, who calls himself a “mathemagician,” is a skilled magician and juggler — ex-president of the International Jugglers Association. He is also co-author of “Magical Mathematics: The Mathematical Ideas that Animate Great Magic Tricks.”