Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Farewell to a dear, old friend....

As a child of the 1980s I spent a fair amount of time parked in front of the TV watching Nickelodeon. Most of it was standard kid’s stuff: “David the Gnome”, “Pinwheel”, “Today’s Special”. All of these were fine if you wanted to, say, learn to count to 10 or see what it’s like to work on a dairy farm, but they weren’t exactly intellectually stimulating material. For the thinking tot there was only one option: “Mr. Wizard’s World”. Granted, it was more often than not something that my older brothers were watching while I sat on the floor helping He-Man battle Skeletor, but I still remember the show, and I still remember some of the lessons that Mr. Wizard taught. (As a child it blew me away that you could see the minute hand on a clock constantly moving if you looked at it with a magnifying glass.)

I only ever thought of Mr. Wizard as a nice old guy who sometimes launched a rocket in his backyard or fooled around with dry ice in his sink. To my young eyes he was like a cross between Mr. Rogers and Einstein. Little did I know that Mr. Wizard, whose real name was Don Herbert, was a World War II veteran and a hero B-24 bomber pilot who flew countless missions against the Nazis and won the Distinguished Flying Cross. After he returned from the war, Herbert dedicated the rest of his adult life to educating children about the wonders of science. He hosted his first show, “Watch Mr. Wizard”, from 1951-1965, revived it briefly during the 70s, and finally saw it reincarnated as “Mr. Wizard’s World” from 1983-1990.

Sadly, Don “Mr. Wizard” Herbert passed away on Tuesday at the age of 89 after a battle with bone cancer. He almost single-handedly paved the way for other children’s science shows like “Newton’s Apple”, “Beakman’s World”, and “Bill Nye the Science Guy”. Though Mr. Wizard was not a scientist himself, his infectious enthusiasm for understanding the world around him and his love of reaching out to children made him a tremendously entertaining and beloved educator. He’ll be missed and forever remembered by the countless people whose lives he impacted by sharing his love of science.

Farewell, Mr. Wizard, and thank you for everything.

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