Helaine sent me a link a few minutes ago. Don Herbert, Mr. Wizard, has died.
Here’s what I wrote about him three years ago.
Don Herbert had a profound influence on my formative years. He was “American Idol” for many 1950’s nerds. He’ll be missed.
I stumbled onto it. Who knew? The Science Channel is running back-to-back episodes of “Ask Mr. Wizard,” starring Don Herbert. These are the original episodes from NBC in living black and white.
It’s Mr. Wizard, in a white shirt, sleeves rolled nearly to his elbows, thin tie tucked into the waistband of his pants. The girl assistant looks like a 14 year old June Cleaver.
I don’t remember individual episodes, but the whole concept is totally familiar. I loved these shows while I was growing up. Mr Wizard and a seemingly random kid, most often with a ‘New Yawk’ accent.
Right now, they are demonstrating how the boiling point of water changes as the pressure changes. This is something I already knew – and now I totally understand it. Really – I’ve learned more about this from Mr. Wizard than any of my college level courses!
Between shows, Mr. Wizard himself has shown up to explain what they were doing. Yes, he’s an old guy now. But he looks great and seem healthy.
I wonder if he knows the effect he’s had on me and a zillion other children of the 50s?
I am 54 years old. I should probably call you Don or Mr. Herbert – but you are Mr. Wizard and always will be to me.
Tonight, after work, I was tuning around and saw a few of the original B&W episodes on the Science Channel. The first one concerned the boiling point of water. It was a broader concept than you let on to the kids watching. It was really the differing properties of water under different pressures.
I forecast the weather for a living (on TV in Connecticut for the past 20+ years). I understand this concept well. I have taken college level courses which attempted to dissect it. It enters into the forecast every day. Yet tonight, watching this 40+ year old show, I understood it with a clarity I hadn’t had before.
So, let me take this opportunity to say hello and tell you your shows hold up today. They aren’t dated (OK – your tie’s a little thin and tucked in your belt). They were among my favorites growing up in Queens, and now I understand why.
All the best,
Back when I was a kid, when television was fuzzy and in black and white, there was Don Herbert. He was as close to a TV action hero as nerds could get. Don Herbert was Mr. Wizard.
I mean, look at that picture to the left! Could there be anything that was more geek chic than whatever they were doing that produced the cloud of smoke (in those pre-smoke detector days)?
He crushed cans with barometric pressure, produced starch clocks and explained everything from electromagnetism on down. I’m sure if I were to watch those shows again today I’d notice the lack of production values and slow pace – TV has changed. Still, with Mr. Wizard, science was cool.
He was a grownup when I was a kid, over 40 years ago. Who knew if he was dead or alive? But, I just got an article from Cousin Michael which ran in yesterday’s New York Times. He’s alive and well and living in California – probably still crushing cans with atmospheric pressure. I do.