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Exhibit explores link between “Potter” magic and medicine

Oct. 2, 2014, 9:05 AM

A traveling exhibit, “Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine,” debuted this week in the History of Medicine Room at the Annette and Irwin Eskind Biomedical Library at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The exhibit, developed and produced by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) of the National Institutes of Health, will run through Nov. 12, and is open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The exhibit seeks to show that the magic depicted in the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling is “partially based on Renaissance traditions that played an important role in the development of Western science and medicine,” according to material provided by the NLM.

The six major sections of the exhibit are devoted to different aspects of wizard life that would be familiar to fans of the Harry Potter books or movies: Potions, Monsters, Herbology, Magical Creatures, Fantastic Beasts and Immortality.

The posters and information from the traveling exhibit are supplemented by items from the historical collection at the library detailing some of the same themes, including:

• “Kreuterbuch,” a book on plants and their uses published in 1557, featuring beautiful hand-colored illustrations.

• A 1576 book on alchemy by Konrad Gesner, including a chapter titled “The distilling aqua vitae,” a guide to making brandy.

• A volume by the 16th Century Swiss physician Paracelsus, who was often incorrectly considered a magician and is known as a founder of the fields of toxicology and pharmacology.

• Various other objects that evoke the era, including a mortar and pestle, flasks and microscopes.

Holly Tucker, Ph.D., professor in the Department of French and Italian and in the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society, will deliver a lecture Thursday, Oct. 30, at 4 p.m. in the boardroom at the Eskind Library discussing the Renaissance-era science and world-view that provide the backdrop for the material in the exhibit.

More information on the exhibit, including educational resources for all levels of students and supplemental material, are at

To see the Eskind Library material in the exhibit, go to the library’s site at

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