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How long has Professor Binns worked at Hogwarts for, dead or alive?

I'd also be interested in a date of death.

  • I've drastically changed my answer, hope it helps you. – ibid Mar 20 '16 at 22:27
8

Worked at Hogwarts for something like 50 to 250 years; died before 1942, but after the mid 1800s.

Note: This answer is a bit of a stretch, and involves a lot of guesswork, but it's probably the best you'll get.

Ghosts, like portraits, tend to not register any events after their death.

No physical pleasure remains to them, and their knowledge and outlook remains at the level it had attained during life, so that old resentments (for instance, at having an incompletely severed neck) continue to rankle after several centuries.
(Pottermore - Ghosts)

Based off of this we can set some bounds for his death.

Professor Binns seems to have no memory of the first time that the Chamber of Secrets was opened, so we can assume that he died sometime before 1942.

“That will do,” he said sharply. “It is a myth! It does not exist! There is not a shred of evidence that Slytherin ever built so much as a secret broom cupboard! I regret telling you such a foolish story! We will return, if you please, to history, to solid, believable, verifiable fact!”
(Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Chapter 9)

Professor Binns uses Bathilda Bagshot's A History of Magic as a class textbook, so he must have been alive while it was published. We do not know exactly when Bathilda Bagshot was born, but we know that she was already an adult when Kendra Dumbledore arrived in Godric's Hallow around 1890 (dating based on Percival Dumbledore being imprisoned "scarcely a year" before Albus went to Hogwarts.)

Thus, we can probably assume that Professor Binns died sometime roughly around 1860-1940.

As for how long he taught at Hogwarts before he died, the most we have to go on is that he was "ancient", "shriveled", and "very old" when he died.

Ancient and shriveled, many people said he hadn’t noticed he was dead. He had simply got up to teach one day and left his body behind him in an armchair in front of the staff room fire; his routine had not varied in the slightest since.
(Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Chapter 9)

Professor Binns had been very old indeed when he had fallen asleep in front of the staff room fire and got up next morning to teach, leaving his body behind him.
(Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - Chapter 8)

The closest thing we have to a canonical image of him is this Pottermore illustration:
Professor Binns Pottermore

We do know that Wizards often live up to 150 years (Faris Spavin was 147 when he retired), and that some Professors were hired at the age of 21, so we can probably put an upper bound as having taught for ~130 prior to death.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them does give us a publication date for A History of Magic, but I am choosing to pretend that was the publishing date of a later edition. "Anyone interested in a full account of this particularly bloody period of wizarding history should consult A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot (Little Red Books, 1947)."

  • 2
    I don't think you can extend the Pottermore quote to mean that they don't register events that occur after their deaths. We see Nearly Headless Nick and Helena Ravenclaw talking about Voldemort, for instance, and probably quite a few other current events as well, so it's clear that they didn't just stop registering everything new altogether after their deaths—after all, if they did, there would be no way of ever having a conversation with them at all. I think was the quote means is that they don't change after death: if they were bad spellers and misogynistic when they died, they remain so. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 21 '16 at 1:47
  • I also don't think 1942 really clinches much here—we see no one other than young Riddle actually say that the 1942 incident was commonly held to relate to the Chamber at all. It was hushed up, we know that, and Aragog was blamed—unless I'm misremembering, we don't see anywhere that it wasn't just passed off as Hagrid getting hold of a dangerous animal and someone with a bad sense of humour making Chamber of Secrets references. Even if Binns had been alive, it seems quite likely he would consider that affair little more than rumour of the Chamber’s existence. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 21 '16 at 1:52
  • (Albus) Dumbledore was born in 1881 [ pottermore.com/explore-the-story/albus-dumbledore ], so Kendra would have arrived in GH in the 1890s, making Bathilda 30 years younger, but still, your numbers could work... – BMWurm Mar 21 '16 at 19:48
  • @BMWurm - I was basing this off of a date I found on the Lexicon which was probably still using the "150 years old" estimate to calculate Dumbledore's birth. I'll try fixing it up. – ibid Mar 21 '16 at 19:56
  • @ibid I assumed as much, just thought I'd mention it :D – BMWurm Mar 21 '16 at 20:23
4

There appears to be ZERO canon information on the topic (aside from the DUH Obvious that he died before Harry Potter started attending his lectures).

I have checked:

Curiously, Pottermore Wikia's article on Binns says he was born in 16/17th century and died in 18th century - but does NOT reference that at all, this info is NOT on Pottermore. I suspect someone made it up because of Goblin Rebellion lectures?

There's a barely-canon (in HP:PS video game) suggestion that he taught James Potter (src: http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Vault_998), but we don't know if he was alive or a ghost during the time.

  • Interesting thought on the Goblin Rebellion lectures, I wonder if he ever mentions that he was alive or around for any of the stuff he teaches. – CandiedMango Dec 15 '15 at 4:32
  • @CandiedMango - no, he doesn't. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 15 '15 at 4:32
  • To be fair, there was a bunch of stuff that never got migrated (or hasn't yet) when Pottermore updated this year; it may have been there before, even if it's not now – Jason Baker Dec 15 '15 at 4:53
  • I think there was something on the old Pottermore. If someone can find it I would like to know too because I'm writing two before-canon fanfics so I need the info (I can do without it for only one of the fics). – Pwassonne Dec 15 '15 at 12:20
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    I have an archive of all the new writing from the old Pottermore besides the QWC articles. There's nothing about Binns besides for in Hogwarts Ghosts. – ibid Dec 15 '15 at 15:28

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