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“There was a lot more to magic, as Harry quickly found out, than waving your wand and saying a few funny words.” Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J. K. Rowling
Illustration of distillation equipment. Ambroise Paré, Les Oeuures d'Ambroise Paré, 1585 Illustration of distillation equipment
Ambroise Paré, Les Oeuures d'Ambroise Paré, 1585

Harry Potter’s World

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (published in the United States as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) follows Harry to his first year at the Hogwarts, where the young wizard uncovers the villainous Lord Voldemort’s plot to steal the Philosopher’s Stone, a magical stone historical thinkers believed was able to turn all metals to gold and produce an elixir of eternal life. Still weakened by his failed attempt to kill Harry ten years earlier, Voldemort hopes that the Stone will help him resurrect his violent reign over wizards, humans, and magical creatures. Harry thwarts Voldemort’s plan by possessing the magically-protected Stone first, simply by having no intention to use the Stone for personal gain. Even in his earliest adventure, Harry chooses the outcome that helps others despite the risks to his own life.

 

The History of Science

“…do not forget to pray to God to bestow on thee the understanding of the reason of the truth of nature…” Nicolas Flamel, as attributed in Testament of Nicholas Flamel, 1806
Flamel: 1330-1417

Alchemy, the process of transforming base metals, was often practiced in hopes of creating the coveted Philosopher’s Stone. One of history’s most famous alchemists, Nicolas Flamel, is featured fictionally in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as the creator of the magical Stone. In fact, many from Flamel’s time believed that the 15th-century scholar and scribe had successfully created the Stone and, despite his death in 1417, the legend of his immortality continued. Although the Philosopher’s Stone is now known to be a myth, Flamel and other alchemists’ attempts to create it by experimenting with metals influenced the development of modern chemistry.

Nicolas Flamel, La Metallique Transformation, 1618