Mr. Wizard, 1917-2007

Don Herbert, better known as television’s Mr. Wizard, has passed away:

Don Herbert was television’s indelible Mr. Wizard, who “unlocked the wonders of science for youngsters of the 1950s and ’60s” before taking his show to Nickelodeon in the 1980’s to engage a whole new generation, as The Times’s obituary says. He was the prototype for a whole species of pop-science teachers, from Bill Nye the Science Guy and Beakman to Steven Spangler, the man credited by Wikipedia as having once held the world record for the tallest Diet Coke geyser.

I was not yet born when “Watch Mr. Wizard” aired in the 1950s and 1960s, but I was a huge fan of “Mr. Wizard’s World,” which aired on Nickelodeon during the 1980s and 1990s, and was one of the primary reasons I became interested in science. I remember attempting many of the experiments I saw on his show.

One of the great things about Don Herbert was his ability to effectively communicate complex scientific laws to kids without taking down to them. Indeed, many scientists today were influenced by “Mr. Wizard.” I don’t think there could be any greater honor for him than this:

During the 1960s and ’70s, about half the applicants to Rockefeller University in New York, where students work toward doctorates in science and medicine, cited Mr. Wizard when asked how they first became interested in science.

A great man has passed. RIP.

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