"My subject is History of Magic. I deal with facts, Miss Granger, not myths and legends."
-- Professor Binns (CS9)
"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!"
-- Professor Binns (CS9)
Binns is the History of Magic teacher and the only professor at Hogwarts who is a ghost. Binns enters the classroom through the blackboard. He is ancient and shriveled in appearance, semi-transparent and a pearly-white color. After living to a great age, Binns died after falling asleep in front of the fire in the staff room. Upon waking up the next morning, he simply went off to class, leaving his body behind. His routine has not varied a whit since.
Binns’ classes are remarkable only for their utter dreariness. He reads through endless details of goblin uprisings and other events “in a flat drone like an old vacuum cleaner” (CS9).
He is the professor whom Hermione asks about the Chamber of Secrets. When asked, he says that he deals in facts, not legends, but after Hermione points out that legends are sometimes based on facts, he relents (CS9). Binns is surprised when Hermione interrupts him and he looks at her "as though he had never seen a student properly before" (CS9). He frequently mixes up the names of his students when they are questioning him (CS9). It suggests that he pays as much attention to his students as they pay to his lesson.
Monotone voice, quickly putting his students in a torpor
Another name which is really a subtle bit of wordplay is Professor Binns. I imagine him wearing very thick lenses - "bins" (from binoculars) is a slang term for spectacles. --Morag Traynor
Professor Binns' first name 'Cuthbert' appears on a list Jo created while planning Prisoner of Azkaban; however, this cannot be considered canon because other information on this page changed by the time the book was actually published (JKR scrapbook).
Professor Binns was left out of the films. In the Chamber of Secrets movie, Hermione asks Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) about the history of the Chamber of Secrets (PA/f).
JKR wrote that Professor Binns was inspired by an old university professor of hers who was brilliant, but disconnected from his students (Pm). She wrote about this in an article written in 1998:
Greek and Roman Studies gave me a few things I value even more highly than my fond memories of The Frogs: two of the best friends I ever made at university, for instance, and the unforgettable experience of being lectured to by a person best known simply as Z. It was Z I had in mind when I created Professor Binns, a minor character in the novel I published last year. More than that I am not prepared to say; we all know how underpaid university lecturers are and I have no wish to be sued (Nymph).
There is some debate at Hogwarts whether Binns realizes that he is dead (Pm).
JRK says Binns was included in her earliest list of ghosts at Hogwarts (Pm)
"Literal Dead, White Male"
Dr. Nancy Reagin, guest on Episode 19 of the Mugglenet Academia podcast, described Professor Binns as the "literal dead, white male" stereotype of a history professor in the proverbal "ivory tower" of academia. She also noted that her edited volume entitled Harry Potter and History is a "refutation of Professor Binns" and his inability to make history interesting in the Harry Potter series. Dr. Reagin and the student guests on Episode 19, Elsebeth and Gerardo, also discussed what improvements they would implement if they took over the teaching of History of Magic at Hogwarts:
1. The use of a pensieve to explore a library of memories relating to important historical events;
2. Bringing magical artifacts and objects into the classroom to offer active and tactile learning opportunities;
3. Taking field trips around the Hogwarts grounds to discuss the many important events that actually occured at or near the castle;
4. Taking advantage of the presence of the ghosts of Hogwarts to glean insights about particular periods in history and/or events with which they may have been associated;
5. Inviting guest speakers to come into the class, such as other members of staff (Dumbledore...) and individuals like Bathilda Bagshot herself.