Tuesday, June 12, 2007

R.I.P, Mr. Wizard

Just saw on Slashdot that Don Herbert, TV's 'Mr. Wizard,' died today. He was 89.

In many ways he was a rationalist version of Mr Rogers for my generation growing up in the late 5o's - early 60's, preaching the gospel of science to a generation raised in the shadow of Sputnik. Like Mr Rogers, his show featured children helping him in his experiments and proceeded at a leisurely pace that these days would be considered slow.

He was also the pioneer for shows such as Bill Nye the Science Guy, showing that an intelligent science-themed show could be a success. Although Don Herbert was primarily an actor (Bill Nye has a degree in mechanical engineering) he took on the mantle of science educator for several generations of children.

His original Watch Mr. Wizard premiered in 1951 on NBC and ran until 1965. NBC revived it during the 1971-72 season, and he hosted Mr. Wizard's World for Nickelodeon, which ran from 1983-90 and then in reruns until 2000.

His shows in the 50-60's had a nicely unscripted quality to them, which is to say when things went slightly haywire, you saw them happen. My favorite memory along those lines was watching a blender filled with cucumbers (I think it was cucumbers) sling cuke pulp all over Mr. Wizard and his protege when the lid to the blender didn't quite seal.

Thank you Mr. Wizard! You rock!

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