Cancer Claims Don Herbert aka "Mr. Wizard"
Beloved TV Icon was 89
The legacy of Don Herbert lives online at Mr. Wizard Studios official website. Buy DVDs featuring selected episodes of Nickolodeon's Mr. Wizard's World and the classic Watch Mr. Wizard serie here, along with more educational DVD series for teachers.
Bell Canyon, CA — Beloved television personality Don Herbert, who introduced countless young viewers to science through his on-screen alter ego “Mr. Wizard,” died yesterday at his home in the Los Angeles suburb of Bell Canyon. Herbert, who was 89, had been suffering from bone cancer.
Herbert’s original series, Watch Mr. Wizard, aired from 1951 to 1965 and received a Peabody Award in 1954. On the program, which targeted children between the ages of eight and thirteen, Herbert conducted science experiments using readily available household items.
Although he did not hold an advanced degree in science, Herbert, who encouraged viewers to duplicate his experiments at home, was a passionate advocate of exposing young people to the simple yet profound principles of science and natural law.
By urging his audience to investigate science on their own, he sought to downplay the notion that science was difficult to grasp, or required special tools for experimentation.
After Watch Mr. Wizard went off the air, Herbert continued to work in television on such general-audience shows as How About and Exploration. In the early 1970s, Watch Mr. Wizard was revived for a year by NBC. From 1983 to 1990, a revamped version of the series, titled Mr. Wizard’s World, ran on the children’s cable network Nickelodeon.
Herbert’s influence on the generation that grew up in the ’50s was reflected by his popularity with such television personalities as David Letterman, who featured Herbert as a guest shortly after the launch of Letterman’s late-night talk show in 1982.
Born Donald Jeffrey Herbert on July 10, 1917, in Waconia, Minn., Herbert studied drama and science at Lacrosse State Teachers College, now a branch of the University of Wisconsin. During World War II he served as a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and rising to the rank of captain
Following the war, Herbert acted on radio in Chicago, where he hatched the idea to combine his interests in theatrical performance and science as a television broadcast. The show eventually moved to New York.
He is survived by his wife, Norma, and by six children and stepchildren.
Archive of American Television talks with Don Herbert
On January 24, 2005, Archive of American Television director Karen Herman interviewed Don Herbert.
During the conversation, Herbert described his early years as an actor on stage and radio before turning to the small screen, where he created Watch Mr. Wizard. He spoke in detail of hosting of Wizard and what it was like to work with his young assistants.
Plus, Herbert recalled later incarnations of the Wizard franchise and some of his appearances on morning and late-night television talk shows. He talked as well of his work as G. E. Theater’s “progress reporter,” hosting a different three-minute commercial segment for each episode through the majority of the run.
The complete interview is available for viewing at the AAT office, located on the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences plaza in North Hollywood. You may also view this four-part interview here at Google Video. Contact the Television Archive at (818) 754-2800 for more information.
To learn more about the life and works of media icon Don Herbert online,
please visit the Archive of American Television Update blog.