Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry wasn’t the only educational establishment in the United Kingdom with a Professor Snape on the staff. The Old College at Aberystwyth University had a real Chemistry lecturer – or “potions master” – called Professor Snape too.
Rodgers was reading The Women’s Penny Paper as part of her research when she came across the tale of Henry Lloyd Snape, an academic who taught at the university in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Aberystwyth was one of the first universities to admit women, and The Women’s Penny Paper championed women’s access to higher education.
Rodgers discovered that Snape had been appointed Chair of Chemistry, or “Potions Master” as she describes him, in 1888, before being awarded an OBE in 1921 for his work with disabled servicemen following the First World War.
Unlike his fictional counterpart he couldn’t put a stopper in death, though.
Snape’s obituary, published in the Journal of the Chemical Society following his passing in 1933, paints a picture of an “energetic, keen and devoted” academic, as well as a key player in “College dramatics”.
“While Aberystwyth’s own Professor Snape may not have been the inspiration for his fictional namesake – Rowling might be wholly unaware of his existence – uncanny echoes and parallels between them stop me, as a researcher of both children’s literature and the history of education, in my tracks”, Rodgers writes, invoking the image of Alan Rickman striding through the fictional halls in his billowing black robes.
“Truth, it seems, sometimes really is stranger than fiction.”
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