Hermione Granger – Why the muggle world lost an excellent scientist

by e_e_evans PhD student

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I’ve been re-reading all the Harry Potter books lately, it’s been my alternative to watching telly in the evening (a good thing at the moment since I spend all my work time staring at screens lately).

As it turns out it’s been quite a while since I’ve read through the books and as with a series that you come back to after a while new things have resonated with me this time around. Some things have been questions such as “After witches and wizards finish their NEWTS is there a further level of education, the equivalent of a University or is that it?” and “why, when they have magic that can regrow bones, do any of them need to wear glasses?” but other things have got me musing.

One of them is the character of Hermione Granger.

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Hermione is an interesting character, not least because she has a lot of character, but also because of what she represents. It is made quite clear that she is the best witch her age through skill and very hard work. She represents the fact that if you have the aptitude where you come from shouldn’t matter a dicky-bird. It’s one of the things I like about the Harry Potter Universe, anyone could have their Hogwarts letter come through their door.

Aside: Now I know this line of reasoning has been diluted a bit by more recent revelations that muggle-borns aren’t strictly spontaneous manifestations of magic but people who, almost like recessive genes, are decedents of wizards at some point down the line (such as squibs). Personally, I prefer the idea that magic can come to anyone and is not bound strictly by blood but remains unknowable and therefore more mysterious and supports the rejection of pure blood being best. (However, considering how far back the lineages may stretch at this point we might have reach a “we’re all descended from Charlemagne” situation anyway).

Besides being prodigious in her magical ability she really does work extremely hard partially because she has a thirst for knowledge. Her reaction to not knowing something is, first and foremost, to visit the library and seek the answer. And here’s my first argument as to why the Muggle world lost an excellent scientist when Hermione Granger got her letter.

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Before a scientist seeks to do anything the first thing we do is look at the literature. Has the problem we wish to solve been done before? What were the limitations to those previous studies? How can similar work help us now? Without applied knowledge Hermione’s intelligence would go completely to waste.

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But (point 2), she also has a logical mind. During the trio’s quest to save the Philosopher’s Stone under the trap door on the 3rd floor Ron might have being the strategist but Hermione was the logician. She thought through the problem of the Devil’s Snare and she solved Snape’s potion bottle riddle (yeah, that’s a reference that will separate those who read the books from those who just watched the films! #FakePotterFans (joking!)). The real scientific method requires logical thinking and application of knowledge. Also, her ability to think logically would be a boon to any scientist, especially any who would wish to make use of programming or logic.

On to point 3: She’s also methodical and persistent. Scientists are still perceived, at least in the popular culture, as scatter-brained eccentrics and although some are (such people do exist) many scientists are in fact methodical and tenacious. For one thing, the average scientist will regularly come up against hurdles, be it in their research or in their ability to carry on being a researcher (see, the funding problems in Universities and fixed term contracts for more details).

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Now I’m not saying Hermione copes well when presented with challenges. It is one of her character flaws that she is so used to things going well with her work she can’t bare it when they don’t, but it’s to her credit that she always tries up until the very last moment. The life of a scientist is not an easy one and I think Herminone has the tenacity to go all the way.

Point 4. This and the next few are cheep ones but if Potions is basically chemistry in the Wizarding World, well, she would make an excellent chemist.

Point 5. If Arithmancy is basically magical maths than she would make an excellent applied Mathematician or Engineer.

Point 6: If Astronomy, is well, no need for comparison, it’s a real scientific discipline and she got an “Outstanding” for her OWLs in that too just like the previous ones.

But now moving on to my final thoughts:

As you can tell throughout this entire piece I’ve been a bit tongue in cheek. Really what I almost titled this piece was “Why Hermione Granger is an inspirational female character to young girls”. The bookish girl is considered a cliche in most circles but what I like about Hermione is that she is, like all the other characters in Harry Potter, a fully fleshed out person (no we are NOT getting into any arguments about Cho Chang right now). She also genuinely is a good fictional role model young people, boys as well as girls, because the books say

“hay, if you’re swotty, don’t change because you’ll make some proper friends who value you just as you are”,

“hay, if you work hard and set your mind to a goal, especially at school, you will do well”,

“hay, if you feel passionate about something, because you see an injustice, fight for it”,

and perhaps most importantly, “hay, it’s ok to be good at something!”

So here’s to Hermione Granger.

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Thanks for reading.

 

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This is a stretch as a closing gif to this piece, I know. Truthfully? I just really wanted to use this gif.

 

Bonus! Harry Potter trivia chat:

This week, as I was reading Deathly Hallows I came across the bit with James and Lily’s graves. They were 21 when they died. That had never properly registered before. That means that they had Harry aged approximately 20. I thought they were 30 when they died! (This is also significant considering how much Lupin goes on about being too old for Tonks, fair if he is in his late 40s and she her 20s (I think) but he’s in 30s!) Apparently they have ’em young in the Wizarding World (either that or no one’s invented the Birth Control Potion yet) which means that considering that some wizards seem to regularly live past age 100 most wizards should have living great-great-grand parents. So where are they? Did they all get killed in the First Wizarding War?

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