Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Goodbye Mr. Wizard

My love of science - and for science fiction - can be traced back to many sources: Boys' Life magazine, where I had my first introduction to giants such as Heinlein and Clarke; comic books of course, especially DC's more science-fictiony titles such as Green Lantern, The Flash; Hawkman; The Atom; Mystery in Space, and Dell/Gold Key's Magus: Robot Fighter and Space Family Robinson.

Disney's Wonderful World Man in Space specials also played a large role, as did Tomorrowland itself when I finally made it to the park... when not aboard the Mark Twain, I would happily have spent my time in that one section.

And then there was Don Herbert - Mr. Wizard - who I, as well as a legion of youngsters, watched religiously during the `50s and `60s. I'm of the original Watch Mr. Wizard generation, Herbert's first series, which started a year before I was born and continued into 1965, when I was 13. And many Saturday mornings of those thirteen years were spent in front of the television set, watching Mr. Wizard's science experiments - usually assisted by a boy who always seemed to be named "Billy," and/or a girl who always seemed to be named "Sally." From Herbert's New York Times obituary:

“What really did it for us was the inclusion of a child,” Mr. Herbert told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2004. “When we started out, it was just me up there alone. That was too much like having a professor give a lecture. We cast a boy and a girl to come in and talk with me about science. That’s when it took off.”

Mr. Herbert once said in an interview how “all the kids were just terrific, but they ideally had to be around 11 or 12. Once they got beyond 13, they became know-it-alls.”
If you're a child of the `80s, you probably remember Herbert's Mr Wizard's World on Nickelodeon, which was an MTV-paced update of the original and had a good seven-year run into 1990. But the original black-and-white series - done live, flubs and experiments gone awry and all- is what I remember, and remember with love and admiration. I asked for my first chemistry set because of Mr. Wizard, and built my first ham radio thanks to him.

He's gone now, but he left hundreds of thousands of loving sons and daughters behind. Including this one.

Don - "Mr. Wizard" Herbert - 1917-2007

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