Wizard way to absorb genetics

4th November 2005 at 00:00
The complicated science of genetics, normally part of the GCSE biology curriculum, could be taught to children as young as five using Harry Potter characters as examples, say researchers.

The specialist language of genes, chromosomes and DNA could then be introduced at a later stage once children have grasped the concepts.

Researchers found that JK Rowling has created a world where wizarding ability is inherited according to the 19th-century principles of Gregor Mendel, the Czech monk known as the father of genetics.

His theories state that each parent passes on a gene for a characteristic, either dominant or recessive, the dominant being the characteristic passed on if combined with the recessive.

In Mendelian fashion, the wizard gene (W) is the recessive and the muggle gene (M) is the dominant.

According to this hypothesis, all wizards and witches therefore have two copies of the wizard gene (WW). Harry's friends Ron Weasley and Neville Longbottom and his enemy Draco Malfoy are "pure-blood" wizards: WW with WW ancestors for generations back. Harry's friend Hermione is a muggle-born witch (WW with two WM parents). Their classmate Seamus is a half-blood wizard, the son of a witch and a muggle (WW with one WW and one WM parent).

Harry (WW with WW parents) is not considered a pure-blood, as his mother was muggle-born (to parents WM).

"There may even be examples of possible mutations (Neville has poor wizarding skills) or questionable paternity: Filch, the caretaker, is a 'squib', someone born into a wizarding family but with no wizarding powers of their own," according to Dr Jeffrey Craig and researchers at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia.

"At every stage, the children's familiarity with the Harry Potter characters can be used as a hook to get them discussing concepts of heredity and genetics."

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