Don Herbert died yesterday, just short of his 90th year. Don Herbert was host of television’s Watch Mr. Wizard, a Saturday morning live TV show that had a run of 547 episodes from 1951 to 1965. He was an important figure in the youth of many of today’s scientists.
The weekly 30-minute show featured Herbert as Mr. Wizard with a young assistant who watched while Herbert performed interesting science experiments. The experiments, many of which seemed impossible at first glance, were usually simple enough to be re-created by viewers. The show was very successful. (Wikipedia entry on Don Herbert)
There were a couple of later incarnations, but I didn’t watch them. By then I was already what he helped me become, a practicing scientist. I couldn’t find any free videos of Mr. Wizard (although it seems you can buy the whole series at the official Mr. Wizard website), but I did find a classic radio parody by Bob (Elliott) and Ray (Goulding), whose Mr. Science, was a recurring character on their zany 15 minute radio show. Bob and Ray is an acquired taste for many, but I acquired the taste and loved them. In this segment, you will hear a typical Bob and Ray “interview” with a lady blacksmith, conducted concurrently with a rival network’s interviewer. Towards the end of the segment (several minutes in) is the Mr. Science parody.
The parody is funny and spot on. But Mr. Wizard wasn’t a joke to the many proto-geeks who watched it on Saturday mornings. For us, Mr. Wizard was, . . . well, he was Mr. Science.