Page last updated at 18:07 GMT, Friday, 3 October 2008 19:07 UK

'I'm not Dumbledore,' says Prof

Professor Peter Wiseman
Prof Peter Wiseman taught JK Rowling in the 1980s

A leading Devon academic has denied claims that he was the inspiration for Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter books.

A recent article in The Guardian cited Prof Peter Wiseman as inspiration for the character, played in the films by Richard Harris and Michael Gambon.

Author JK Rowling was a student at Exeter University from 1983 to 1985.

But Prof Wiseman says he has strong doubts the long-bearded character was based on him.

Not only do I not like sherbet lemons, I have a rather dry taste
Prof Peter Wiseman

He says his beard was black, not white, during the time he taught the author but he does admit a passing resemblance in early editions.

"The original edition of the Harry Potter novels has on the back cover a picture of Dumbledore looking roughly my age at that time," he said.

"Nowadays on the back you will find the familiar venerable figure with a long white beard, just like in the movies."

The books chronicling the adventures of the adolescent wizard have sold more than 400 million copies and have been translated into 65 languages.

Prof Wiseman, Emeritus Professor of Roman History at Exeter University and a fellow of the British Academy, also denies sharing a love of sherbet lemons with Albus Dumbledore.

"It was said that one reason for believing it was me was that I had a sweet tooth and would suck sweets between lectures. This is totally untrue," he said.

"Not only do I not like sherbet lemons, I have a rather dry taste; bitter beer, dry white wine, that kind of thing."

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