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“We wizards have mistreated and abused our fellows for too long, and we are now reaping our reward.” Albus Dumbledore to Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J. K. Rowling
Detail of a centaur from an illustration of the human body and the astrological signs that govern it from Joannes de Ketham, Fasciculo de Medicina, 1493/1494 Detail of a centaur from an illustration of the human body and the astrological signs that govern it
Joannes de Ketham, Fasciculo de Medicina, 1493/1494

Harry Potter’s World

Although the wizards of Harry Potter value learning and teaching about the world around them, they do not always respect the creatures in it. Merpeople and centaurs, known in the series as “half-breeds,” are forced to live on segregated lands and are subject to laws in which they have no say. Several of Harry’s mentors are bothered by the inequalities forced on these creatures and feel that wizards could benefit by learning about many different magical cultures. In Harry’s fifth year, Hogwarts’ headmaster Albus Dumbledore employs Firenze, one of the few centaurs to interact with wizards as many of his kind are angered by their dwindling lands and sub-human status. Firenze’s Divination class, where students learn about reading the future, is one of the first times most of the young witches and wizards have ever seen, much less interacted with, a centaur.

“Apparently she loathes part-humans; she campaigned to have merpeople rounded up and tagged last year...” Sirius Black to Hermione Granger, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J. K. Rowling
Illustration of merpeople from The Workes of Ambrose Parey, translated out of Latine, 1634 Illustration of merpeople
The Workes of Ambrose Parey, translated out of Latine, 1634
 

The History of Science

Paracelsus: 1493-1541

Paracelsus, who appears as a sculpture in Harry Potter, was a 16th-century physician and alchemist notorious for criticizing the medical practices of his time. For example, he argued that bloodletting, a popular medical cure-all, would do more harm than good to the patient. Paracelsus’s own treatments were less invasive than those of his fellow physicians and, therefore, less likely to cause fatal infections. The alchemist was among the first to use chemicals and minerals in his remedies because he believed that the body was a microcosm of nature and needed substances from the earth to maintain good health. Unlike most of his fellow physicians, Paracelsus appreciated what other cultures could teach about healing. During his countless travels, he sought advice from diverse sources, including barbers and wise women. Paracelsus also held the unorthodox views that medical treatment should be a basic right and that nature should be protected, not exploited.

“All things that we use on earth let us use them for good and not for evil.” Paracelsus, De Religione Perpetua, 1533
Paracelsus, Aurei Velleris oder der Guldin Schatz und Kunstkammer, 1598 Paracelsus, Aurei Velleris oder der Guldin Schatz und Kunstkammer, 1598