'Mr. Wizard' Dies At 89 | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: June 15, 2007

'Mr. Wizard' Dies At 89

Television's Don Herbert inspired many to careers in science
Department: ACS News
on the set of "Watch Mr. Wizard" with two of his young assistants.
Credit: NBCU Photo Bank
on the set of "Watch Mr. Wizard" with two of his young assistants.
Credit: NBCU Photo Bank

Don Herbert, television's influential science teacher "Mr. Wizard," died of bone cancer at his home in a Los Angeles suburb on June 12. He was 89.

From 1951 through 1964, Herbert's show, "Watch Mr. Wizard," aroused the curiosity of children and demystified scientific principles on a set built like a simple workshop. Adopting an informal style, Herbert used familiar household items such as cans, straws, and paper plates in his lab experiments. Boys and girls served as his on-air assistants.

The show was briefly revived in the 1970s, and then again in the 1980s, after Herbert revamped it for the Nickelodeon channel.

Born in Waconia, Minn., Herbert was a 1940 graduate of LaCrosse State Teachers College at the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse. Active in college dramatics, he majored in English and general science. He held no advanced degree in science but had a voracious appetite for science knowledge.

Shortly after graduation, Herbert served in World War II. As an Army Air Corps second lieutenant, he flew 56 bomber missions over northern Italy, Germany, and Yugoslavia.

After the war, Herbert worked as an actor, model, and radio writer before creating "Watch Mr. Wizard," which first aired on Chicago's NBC station. The show moved to New York City after several years.

Many researchers have traced an early interest in science back to the show and credit Herbert for spurring them on to careers in fields including medicine, engineering, and chemistry. Herbert received a Peabody Award for the science show in 1954.

A statement posted by the family on the official Mr. Wizard Studios website cites Herbert as "an original and truly legendary figure in the worlds of both television and science education." The family adds, "He has been inspirational and influential in so many ways and on so many lives, and we are comforted in the fact that his groundbreaking work and legacy will continue to inspire many more people for years to come."

Herbert is survived by his wife, Norma, as well as six children and stepchildren.

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