Lecture: From Beliefs and Spells To The Scientific Method

Dr Powell -

Dr. Henry C. Powell, M.D., D.Sc. presented "From beliefs and spells to the scientific method: A long slow journey for the art of Medicine." This lecture coincides with the UC San Diego Libraries' hosting of Harry Potter's World: Renaissance Science, Magic, & Medicine, a traveling exhibit from the National Library of Medicine. The libraries hosted several events in connection with this exhibit.

From a room in a cupboard under the stairs to a room in a castle, the story of Harry Potter begins with the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone in the UK) and sends a young boy on new adventures, both intellectual and physical. The foundation of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry sprung from the early Renaissance period and it is here where “muggle” reality intertwines with literary fiction. Science and medicine were developed and nurtured with lessons learned by experts in alchemy, botany, surgery, as well as theologians. Scientists from long ago include Paracelsus, Flamel, Paré, Harvey and they often benefited from the work of more familiar artists such as van Calcar, Michelangelo and Alberti.

The advance of human knowledge was not an easy road and it often required challenging the current “authority.” This often exacted a personal price. Medicine benefited from the growing understanding of botany, alchemy, anatomy, and art. This talk will fill in some of the details of why, even with this growing understanding, magic and the Philosopher’s Stone retained such enduring appeal. For the full talk abstract, please see http://tinyurl.com/sorcerorstone.


Audio also available in mp3 format (right-click to download)


Slides also available in PowerPoint format (right-click to download)