Don Herbert (1917-2007) was best known to several generations of children as "Mr. Wizard," a kindly neighbor who explained all aspects of science through experiments that could easily be done at home. He started out in radio after World War II; while working on children's shows he developed the idea that would bring him instant recognition from any kid with a television set in the Fifties. Watch Mr. Wizard was first aired on Chicago's WNBQ in 1951. The simple live format produced almost 550 episodes from 1951 to 1965.
Mr. Wizard chemistry sets were a staple in many homes during those much simpler times. Today, most of the ingredients for the set are illegal to sell, but they provided hours of fun in those pre-seat belt, pre-bicycle helmet, pre-organized playdate days.
Herbert recieved a Peabody award in 1953; other awards for his contributions to science education followed. During the height of his popularity in the mid-Fifties, he worked with Ronald Reagan on General Electric Theater.
From the 1971-72 television season, Canada beckoned and Herbert hosted Mr. Wizard, which was aired on both Canadaian and American television.
He returned to reguolar television in 1983 with the thrice-weekly Mr. Wizard's World, which ran on Nickelodeon until 1990 (with repeat episodes continually airing for years afterward).
Teacher to Teacher with Mr. Wizard was a fifteen-minute show in 1994, also on Nickelodeon.
Herbert also taught us that fruit, cereal, milk, bread, and butter were the five ingredients of a healthy breakfast. It seemed to have worked for him -- he lived to just four weeks short of his nintieth birthday.
If you weren't a kid in the fifties, here's what you missed:
Global warming a myth? According to Mr. Wizard, it looks like melting icebergs won't flood our cities. Hmm.
Of course, clips from his shows could be used for evil:
Comedian Pat Paulsen used to do a sketch about a Mr. Wizard-type neighborhood scientist but, sadly, I can't find a clip. So I want those of you who have seen it to think back to it. And smile.
For more of Today's Overlooked stuff, go to Todd Mason's Sweet Freedom, where he will have all the links. And think kindly of Todd as he endures all sorts of pain this Friday.