Long before there was a Bill Nye – Science Guy or a Beakman teaching us about science there was Mr. Wizard. No we are not talking Harry Potter.
Mr. Wizard was Don Herbert, who unlocked the wonders of science for youngsters of the
1950s and ’60s on television. Mr. Wizard took his Final Taxi at the age of 89.
Herbert held no advanced degree in science, he used household items in his TV lab, and his assistants were boys and girls. But he became an influential showman-science teacher on his half-hour “Watch Mr. Wizard” programs, which ran on NBC from 1951 to 1965.
Millions of youngsters may have been captivated by Howdy Doody and the Lone Ranger, but many were also conducting science experiments at home, emulating Mr. Wizard.
“Watch Mr. Wizard,” which was aimed at youngsters between 8 and 13, received a Peabody Award in 1953 for young people’s programming. More than 100,000 children were enrolled in 5,000 Mr. Wizard Science Clubs by the mid-1950s.
After his children’s program went off the air, Mr. Wizard remained a resence in TV science programming with general-audience shows like “How About” and “Exploration.” NBC revived “Watch Mr. Wizard” for one year in the early ’70s. In the 1980s Mr. Herbert reprised his children’s shows with “Mr. Wizard’s World” on the Nickelodeon cable network.
I remember watching this then even though I did read about Mr. Wizard in many magazines. I think Mad and Cracked did spoofs on him all the time.
He became something of a TV celebrity beyond his lab as a guest of Johnny Carson, David Letterman and Regis Philbin and a panelist on “Hollywood Squares.”
It was because of Mr. Wizard I like to mix up different household cleaners to see if I could get it to explode.