Science at Hogwarts (and Its Muggle Equivalent)

Hogwarts-scienceOne of the really fun things about taking a closer look at science in children’s fiction is finding in in pretty much every book. Or at least, in most fantasy books.

Today, I’ll start going deep(er) into some of the books that I’ve read, and see what kind of science-y stuff I can find.

First up: the Harry Potter series.

Harry Potter is all about magic, obviously. But it’s also full of science. Hogwarts is a school, after all. They have to have science subjects, right?

So, let’s start with just listing all the science subjects that Harry and the rest of the gang take in their 7 years at Hogwarts. Or rather, a better way of going about this is to list some of their subjects, and then, the direct and indirect equivalents in Muggle science. Here goes:

  • Herbology – Botany
  • Potions – Chemistry
  • Astronomy – which, according to the Harry Potter Wiki, is “one of the only fields of study at Hogwarts which has a direct equivalent in the Muggle world.”
  • Care of Magical Creatures – Zoology, Veterinary Science
  • Flying – Aviation, Physics
  • Transfiguration – Material Science

When you look at these subjects closely, you’ll see that there are actually many similarities between the Hogwarts classes and Muggle science. These include the subject matter, equipment used during class, and even the exercises that are given to the students in order to master the subject.

I think one of the reasons why kids (and adults) like Harry Potter so much is that the world, though fantastical, seems completely relatable. We can all imagine ourselves sitting in Snape’s Potions class and sweating over a cauldron. Harry, Hermione, Ron and the rest of them probably feel like most of us do (or did) in Chemistry class.

Why is that?

Could it be partly because the concepts and methods are familiar?

The way the teachers teach is the same. Students have to perform experiments, as we do. They study and memorize and complete homework. They have to take exams and finals, and they fear failing them. They’re graded differently, but none of us would be happy with a P (Poor) or worse, a T (Troll) in any of our Muggle classes, would we?

But how is the science itself different (or the same)?

I think it’s safe to say that Hogwarts science, like our science and like the magic in this story world, has rules. Are they the same as the rules of the equivalent Muggle science? If they’re not, how are the rules bent? Are there alternative or derivative rules instead?

I think it would be fun to imagine how scientific concepts work in the magical world beyond Platform 9 3/4.

So what I think I’ll do in subsequent posts is to dive a little more deeply into each subject and see if I can tease out the science behind Potions, Transfiguration, etc.

Want to join me? Make sure you come back next time!

[image: Rstoplabe14 via Wikipedia]

Comments

  1. This sounds great! I’ll keep an eye out of the next posts. One of my degrees is in Chemistry, so I definitely relate to the sweating over the cauldron. Maybe you should rewrite the Harry Potter Wiki because I agree with you that all those classes relate, not just Astronomy. I remember reading once that J.K. Rowling ran across an old plant herb and medicinal plants book, or something like that, in a used book store that she used for research and inspiration for plants in herbology and used in potions.

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