For those of you who are Baby Boomers, you will remember seeing Mr. Wizard on TV doing amazing science experiments. Throughout the 1950’s-60’s Don Herbert (a.k.a. Mr. Wizard) charmed children and showed them how “keen” it was to learn science.
For those who grew up watching Nickelodeon in the 1980’s Don made science “cool” on Mr. Wizard’s World. The show had been revived for another generation, almost 20 years after it first began.
Some of you may have even been “Mr. Wizard Science Club” members. What? You don’t remember the club? It was nationwide and at one time boasted 5000 clubs with over 100,000 members. Do you remember the secret hand-shake? No?! Well, there wasn’t a secret hand-shake…gotcha. Needless to say, the show was a hit.
“What really did it for us was the inclusion of a child,” [Don] told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2004. “When we started out, it was just me up there alone. That was too much like having a professor give a lecture. We cast a boy and girl to come in and talk with me about science. That’s when it took off.
“The children watching could identify with someone like them.”
In explaining how he brought a sense of wonder to elementary scientific experiments, Herbert told the New York Times in 2004 that he “would perform the trick, as it were, to hook the kids, and then explain the science later. (LA Times.com)
Born in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, in 1917, Don grew up wanting to be an actor. He even worked as an actor and stage hand before moving to New York. A little known fact is that Don volunteered for the Armed Services after which he flew as many as 56 missions as a B-24 bomber pilot. He earned several medals including the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Don Herbert died on Tuesday, June 12, 2007 after a long battle with melanoma cancer. He was 89 years old.
We wish his wife of 34 years, Norma, his children, and grandchildren peace at this time in their lives. And, for many of us Don will be remembered as Mr. Wizard — the man who touched our lives with the magic of science and inspired us to think and learn.
He will be missed.
Added: Last Interview with Don Herbert on WIRED