A crowd had already filled the Medical Historical Library on a cold day in January, when “Professor Dumbledore,” (AKA Richard Belitsky, M.D., deputy dean for education) strode in to an admiring crowd. Dressed in a black gown and hat, Belitsky welcomed the crowd to a traveling exhibit created by the National Library of Medicine (NLM). “Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine” uses the seven books about the boy magician as a launching pad for an exploration of science.
According to the NLM website, the magic in the Harry Potter books is based, in part, on Renaissance traditions—alchemy, astrology, and natural philosophy—that had a role developing Western science. The exhibition consists of six panels exploring the topics of potions, monsters, herbology, magical creatures, fantastic beasts, and immortality, and traces the roots of Harry Potter’s magical world in Renaissance magic, science, and medicine.
The middle and elementary school students at the exhibition enjoyed a scavenger hunt, which had them scouring the library for the initials of someone wearing a wizard’s hat, a paw print from Finn the Therapy Dog, stickers in the library’s brain room, and other items.
In his opening remarks, Professor Dumbledore promised to try a little magic himself.
“For those of you who can see through this thinly veiled disguise, you’ll notice all the ways I’m willing to publicly humiliate myself in order to keep my job,” said Belitsky, the Harold W. Jockers Associate Professor of Medical Education. “For those of you who perhaps aspire to be the deputy dean of education at the School of Medicine, just know they will put you through things like this. If I can conjure up just a little bit of magic and wizardry, I’m going to try to make myself disappear and hope that all of you forever forget this moment.”