Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic Co-sponsors Breakthrough Research in Motor Neuron Disease.

In January, neuroscientists from the University of Edinburgh announced that they had identified, and more importantly, repaired a defect in cultured motoneurons from an inheritable form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This condition is commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease here in the States, and is a sub-class of a larger family of conditions known as motoneuron (or motor neurone to the Brits) disease. What’s the Harry Potter connection?

The study was funded by the Medical Research Council, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research, My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, UK Dementia Research Institute and Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic.

J.K. Rowling founded the clinic in 2013, in honor of her mother, Anne, who died of multiple sclerosis. She made another major gift in 2019. 

The neurons turned out to have defective mitochondria, the “powerhouse” of the cells, which shorted the axon, the all-important long fiber that carries electrical signals from the spinal cord to the muscle. But, when a virus was used to boost mitochondria, the axons were restored to their normal length. This opens the possibility of using drugs already available in clinical trials to treat this condition.

As a neuroscientist whose own dissertation work focused on a motor nucleus of particular interest to both motoneuron disease and sexual differentiation, I am delighted to see this research. Although JK Rowling has received criticism for her position on transgender issues, some of which is, in my opinion, well-deserved, she must be given credit for the great use she has made of her wealth. Research like this doesn’t happen without funding. ALS is currently a death sentence, with most patients dying within two years, and there are few treatments available. The benefits of this work cannot be understated.

The Chessmen in the First Potter Film

What a delight! Thank you to Viktor for sharing this find; I had no idea the chessmen in the film version of Philosopher’s Stone had such a great backstory. Read more about these pieces — their history and where to find a replica set — at the British Museum blog page, ChessEquipments.com’s Lewis Chess Set page, Etsy, or at LewisChessPieces.co.uk!

Does anyone think the film’s chessboard pieces “miles beneath Hogwarts” resemble the Lewis chessmen?

Troubled Blood: Poisoned Chocolates

Happy Valentine’s Day!

This is the second of three Valentine’s Day posts at HogwartsProfessor. The day before yesterday I reviewed the five gifts Cormoran gives to Robin in Troubled Blood and how each is an echo of a previous gift and a metaphor for the status of their relationship. The last, a birthday trip to the Ritz Hotel for champagne, pretty much seals the deal that these two characters named for birds are now ‘love birds’ as well.

That first V-Day post had a relatively obvious romantic message, even though the only person who gives anyone a gift on the actual Valentine’s Day in Troubled Blood is the “smarmy” Saul Morris who brings flowers to Pat. Today’s post on chocolates in Strike5 and poisoned chocolates in particular is not romantic at all, except that two male characters do give Robin Ellacott salted caramel chocolates as tokens of their affection for her. I write this up, as, truth be told, I do the other two posts as well, because Valentine’s Day’s centrality and importance in Troubled Blood means that this is an apt time to highlight aspects of Rowling’s artistry and meaning in her most recent and I think best novel that almost certainly escape the casual reader.

Today, it’s chocolates, Rowling’s bon mots from the literary genre in which she works and her playful hat-tipping to the masters while turning a trope or cliche of detective fiction to her fresh ends. Join me after the jump for that Valentine’s Day discussion! [Read more…]

Elizabeth(s) the Phoenix

The centrality of Elizabethan imagery in Troubled Blood is hard to miss. The  Faerie Queene epigraphs and structuring, already well documented on this site, show the basis of the connection. That this work is meant to parallel Order of the Phoenix is also well documented. I want to suggest that Rowling has clarified much of the meaning of Order of the Phoenix using this imagery, which in turn continues and strengthens a long-running undercurrent in Rowling’s writing: a extensive set of references to 15th through 17th century English ecclesiastical, political, and philosophical history (earlier work directly touching this set of associations in Rowling’s work can be found in this 2009 post).

My core thought here is this: it is not just the one Elizabeth, Elizabeth I, who we are meant to consider. Instead, I think we are meant to focus on the societal and literary impact of four closely intertwined Elizabeths and their associations with the development of English Christianity and esotericism in its many forms. These four are Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth I, Elizabeth Stuart, and Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia.

I’ll grant that this is a fairly large claim, and I may be hunting Crumple Horned Snorkacks (if I am, please let me know), but I think there is this strong thread here worth tracing.
[Read more…]

Troubled Blood: Interpreting the Poetry of Cormoran’s Five Gifts To Robin

Happy Day Before the Day Before Valentine’s Day! Because Valentine’s Day is such a central and important event in Troubled Blood, in the series really, I hope to write three posts this year to celebrate the occasion: one on poisoned chocolates, another on Rowling-Galbraith’s device for psychological ‘externalization’ in the series, and this one on Cormoran’s five gifts to Robin in Strike5.

There are five presents that Strike gives to Robin in Troubled Blood. Each is reminiscent of previous gifts that Robin has received, echoes that are positive and negative. The turn in the quality and nature of Strike’s gifts to his partner comes on Valentine’s Day when Robin tells Strike in the wind and rain outside her flat “And don’t give me any more fucking flowers!”

Join me after the jump for a review of the five gifts, their story echoes, and the meaning of each with respect to Strike’s awareness of his relationship with Robin. [Read more…]