Real-Life Foundations for a Magical World

Learn about the Renaissance beliefs that helped form a basis for the Harry Potter novels.


By Brandi Hollis
USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 26, 2012) You might not be able to put a spell like “Petrificus Totalus” on someone, but did you know you really can concoct a potion with a mandrake root? Or that while Harry Potter is fiction, Nicholas Flamel, the chocolate frog card alchemist, was a real person?


Now through Dec. 1, the Hinks and Elaine Shimberg Health Sciences Library will host “Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine,” an exhibit by the National Library of Medicine. Visitors are invited to explore the reality that is interwoven with the fantasy of Harry Potter’s world.


The exhibit focuses on potions, magical creatures and herbology that J.K. Rowling mentions in Harry Potter that were considered scientific reality during the 15th and 16th centuries. The exhibit also displays writings from these periods by academics, including Nicholas Flamel. Visitors can view pages from books that illustrate dragons, basilisks and centaurs as real creatures. Also on display are herbs and items mentioned in the Harry Potter series with descriptions of the magical properties they were once thought to have.


“There are things in Harry Potter that were considered [for] real medicinal uses. A lot of things J.K. Rowling put in her books were based on fact, which I found surprising,” said Jill Baker, the library employee who coordinated the exhibit and self-proclaimed Harry Potter fan.


The exhibit will host an open house Monday, Oct. 29, 5 – 7 p.m. Visitors are welcome to come and enjoy refreshments dressed as their favorite Harry Potter character, or any other Halloween costume they wish. There will be raffle prizes for answering Harry Potter trivia as well as naming the best new jelly bean flavor.