RIP Don Herbert – Mr. Wizard
‘Mr. Wizard’ dies at 89. I don’t know that many friends that can’t replicate a “trick” they saw on Mr. Wizard, or rattle off a scientific fact that he ingrained in our young minds. Even when I got older, I would watch his show if I caught it, or watch segments that he would film for small news stations with a fondness that far surpasses what I feel for other childhood loves like The Electric Company or Schoolhouse Rock! I still show co-workers how they can walk through a piece of paper. I made my young cousins marvel at messing with their body thermometers with placing their hands in hot, warm and cold bowls of water. And every time I see House I at the Sculpture Garden, I think of his oscillating optical illusion. There are so many great moments from his show that really taught me to question the way the world works and how I perceive it.
I tested the different sense zones on my tongue. I tested my reaction time by dropping/catching a ruler. In slow moments at work I still grab a ruler, putting my fingers at the 1 and 11 marks and try to bring my fingers together non-simultaneously. And every chair-spinning moment is made all the better by being able to slow or speed my rotation by remembering that barely 5 minute segment on the show. I’m surprised at how sad his passing makes me — he’ll really be missed.
When I think of his show compared to the current kids’ science shows and other programming available today, a fan page for classic Nickelodeon shows gives the most simple and true statement about Herbert’s appeal:
Perhaps Mr. Wizard represents the differences between Nickelodeon then and now, because Mr. Wizard never talked down to kids, or underestimated their intelligence.