For every scientist, engineer, experimenter, and hacker, June 12, 2007 marked the passing of an era with the death of Don Herbert, or, as he was more professionally and affectionately known, Mr. Wizard. Herbert was 89.
During the early years of television, Herbert sparked the intellect of youngsters around the country with his science show, Watch Mr. Wizard. Typically, aided by an enthusiastic neighborhood kid, Herbert would distill a complex scientific concept into a readily comprehendible experiment within the confines of his weekly 30-minute show.
Most mothers probably dreaded each weekly installment. I know mine did. Each week, armed with a newfound knowledge base, I would seek to discover science—the Mr. Wizard way.
Accompanied by my trusted partner in crime, Tom, I would attempt to replicate the same experiment that had just peaked our overactive imaginations. Unfortunately, for my mother, most of these attempts at scientific inquiry went awry and left the house filled with a malodorous cloud of smoke.
But the act of discovery was fun and helped to catapult me into a profession where I actually get paid to fill my own house with clouds of smoke.
Airing between 1951-1965, Watch Mr. Wizard earned professional acknowledgement from the National Science Foundation, General Motors Corporation, and the American Chemical Society. Herbert, himself, won a Peabody Award and several Thomas Alva Edison National Mass Media Awards for his work.
A revival of the show was attempted in 1983. Titled, Mr. Wizards World, this newer incarnation aired until 1990 on Nickelodeon. This series was later re-aired on The Science Channel in 2005.
In a 1984 interview with Discover magazine Herbert stated that, "I just restrict myself to fun that has scientific content." Thank you, Mr. Wizard, that was fun! —Dave Prochnow