Lecture spotlight: “Half Blood, Half Breeds, and the So-Called Purity of Blood”

The Harry Potter books aren’t exactly scholarly works, but several scholars have used them to explore a variety of topics.

Dr. Peter Blier, assistant professor of Pediatrics at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Baystate Children’s Hospital, will explore the important role genetics plays in the book and movie series in his Medical Humanities Mondays Lecture on Dec. 3.

Blier posits that although the books make clear that magical ability is inherited, it’s also true that all children of magical parents have abilities and some witches and wizards are born to non-magical parents.

While this genetic pattern is not explored by the characters in the book, Blier says, “a series of publications by medical scientists employed modern genetics to examine inheritance of magical ability in the world of Harry Potter.”

“The goal of this presentation is to demonstrate how this scientific literature on the genetics of wizarding in the magical world can be used to help mere muggles understand real world science,” Blier says in his abstract. “In addition to discussing the science, we will explore how protagonists in the Harry Potter series may have acted differently if they had understood genetics.”

The lecture is from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at 602 Cathedral of Learning and is sponsored by the Center for Bioethics and Health Law.

Blier also will present his talk at other venues in Pittsburgh:

  • 7 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Full Pint Wild Side Pub on Butler Street in Lawrenceville, sponsored by the Sanctuary Faith Community based in Sharpsburg
  • 9:30 a.m. Dec. 5 at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, 616 North Highland Ave., Pittsburgh