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Television Media Science

TV's "Mr. Wizard," Don Herbert, Dies At 89 255

Posted by kdawson
from the so-long-and-thanks-for-all-the-experiments dept.
XorNand writes "Television's Mr. Wizard, Don Herbert, died today at 89. He introduced generations of young viewers to the joys of science. Herbert, who had bone cancer, died at his suburban Bell Canyon home near Los Angeles."
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TV's "Mr. Wizard," Don Herbert, Dies At 89

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  • Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by omeomi (675045) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @10:32PM (#19485891) Homepage
    Wow, that's sad. I loved that show...
    • Re:Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nschubach (922175) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @10:47PM (#19486001) Journal
      Amazing, for someone I've never met, I think I just cried a little (and am not afraid to admit it.) I used to love that show.
      • Re:Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bladesjester (774793) <slashdot@jamesho ... m minus math_god> on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @11:13PM (#19486193) Homepage Journal
        It's not strange to mourn the passing of one who has impacted so many lives in a positive manner even if you've never met him in person.

        He turned a lot of us on to science as kids. He'll be missed.
      • It's always sad when the world loses a great teacher but I've never heard of him here in Australia. Judging from the posts in this thread, it's sounds like his methods were similar to the late great Prof. Sumner Miller [abc.net.au] who entertained, educated and influenced many people from my generation.

        Trivia question: Is he the "Mr Wizard" in the song walking on the sun [guntheranderson.com]?
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by LoadWB (592248) *
          I would like to thing so, though I do not know the answer for certain. I loved watching Mr. Wizard's World on Nickelodeon back in the 80's. When I was growing up, my 12" black and white television never left channel seven, which was Nick. Great shows like "Mr. Wizard's World," "What Will They Think of Next?", "You Can't Do That on Television," and a slew of kid-oriented serials. I do not think the shows now come close to the caliber and quality, but then it is a different world now, so it is difficult f
        • by macserv (701681)
          It was odd, watching Julius Sumner Miller in my 9th Grade science class, knowing he was already dead. I sure did learn a lot from him. True educators — those who draw knowledge and emotion out of us instead of trying to jam it in — are truly rare and precious. And they usually die too soon.
      • Re:Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

        by munpfazy (694689) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @04:11AM (#19487975)

        Amazing, for someone I've never met, I think I just cried a little (and am not afraid to admit it.) I used to love that show.


        I also cried while reflecting upon the news of his death. (And I'm the sort of person who greets most celebrity deaths with rude jokes. You should hear my Lady Diana and Ronald Reagan one-liners.)

        I don't want to belittle the very real loss his friends and family are experiencing or the pain of cancer, but perhaps we should envy him. To die at 89 with the knowledge that you've inspired generations of scientists and science enthusiasts is hardly the worst outcome one can hope for. I'd go to my grave satisfied having positively impacted a tiny fraction of the number of lives he's touched.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *
      It really is a sad day for me. I learned everything I know about physics from Mr.Wizard.
  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @10:32PM (#19485893)
    Just where are the reruns and DVDs of his work?
  • I emailed him (Score:2, Insightful)

    by moosehooey (953907)
    I sent him an email about a year ago thanking him for a great show. I learned a ton about science from that show, even stuff that helped me with high school and college physics. I'm very sad to hear about this.
  • by sharky611aol.com (682311) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @10:36PM (#19485921)
    What a loss. He turned on an entire generation of kids to science. Surely I'm not the only one who used to wake up before school at 6 AM to watch Mr. Wizard on Nickelodeon before school? I know I wouldn't be where I am today (M.D.) without Mr. Wizard, and for that, I am eternally grateful.
    • by Bayoudegradeable (1003768) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @10:42PM (#19485961)
      Even though I am a social studies teacher, I inject as much science as I can, especially in geography class. Certainly Mr. Wizard sparked a love of science that I still carry today. Even more so, he fed all of our curious natures, and helped us answer questions about why stuff happens. If only someone were carrying the torch today. I don't quite trust the Wiggles and Barney to carry the next generation...
      • by Lane.exe (672783)
        I think that kids shows today are less about "learning" in the traditional sense and more about teaching (very worthy) goals of tolerance and acceptance.

        I just don't see why we can't teach both, at once. Human knowledge and education is the great equalizer... virtually no prejudice or societal ill can't be cured by a good education.

    • by evanbd (210358)
      Nope. I remember waking up in the predawn hours to watch the show while eating breakfast.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by freedom_india (780002)
      Ahhh those were the days when America liked kids to learn science, not sex after school.
      But since those kind of kids tend to question the Govt., It has slowly now toned down the science completly
      and instead displays would prefer a mud fight between Britney in nude and Paris in Jail costume...
      Even seen FOX show any such science show? NO
      They would prefer a Creationist Show, O'reilly, etc.

       
    • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @11:19PM (#19486227) Journal
      He turned on an entire generation of kids to science. Surely I'm not the only one who used to wake up before school at 6 AM to watch Mr. Wizard on Nickelodeon before school?

      That was his second show.

      His first one turned on many (including me) in my generation (now becoming eligible for Senior Citizen Discounts).
    • by doormat (63648)
      No you weren't. My parents weren't even awake and I'd be downstairs watching it.
    • by munpfazy (694689) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:52AM (#19486987)
      Two generations, at the very least.

      When the news of his death was announced in our lab, it generated a spontaneous group discussion and collective revery. Of the 8 mid-twenties physics PhD candidates in the room, only one wasn't intimately familiar with his programs. Most shared very detailed accounts of favorite demonstrations, and all examples were met with knowing nods from the gathered crowd.

      I watched a lot of television as a kid, but (with Mr. Roger's Neighborhood a notable second), no program ever came close to matching Mr. Wizard's show in either the importance I placed upon it at the time or the degree to which I can remember it today. Outside of the occasional trip to the museum, it was the only chance many of us had to encounter the sciences in any guise other than the dessicated list of memorizable-facts presented in elementary textbooks.

      Would I have found my calling in the sciences without his program? Who knows. Perhaps. But probably not as early or as easily. And I sure as hell would have missed out on several hours a week of sheer joy as I watched his program and tried to replicate some of the less materials-intensive experiments.

      The real tragedy, of course, isn't that he has died, but that (according to wikipedia) his programs are no longer broadcast anywhere. I haven't seen television in a while, so its possible that there's even better science programming available today. But, somehow, I doubt it.

      So long, Mr. Wizard. Tonight I'll light a candle in your honor (under an overturned air-and-water-filled tumbler sitting in a pan of water. . .)
      • by kabocox (199019)
        The real tragedy, of course, isn't that he has died, but that (according to wikipedia) his programs are no longer broadcast anywhere. I haven't seen television in a while, so its possible that there's even better science programming available today. But, somehow, I doubt it.

        This is sad. I've seen alot of junk on tv. There are several stations that should be running these shows. TLC, Discovery, SciFi Channel, and any PBS channel. There have been fancier wizbang shows, but none of them captured the attention
    • He was never shown in England, as best as I can recall, however two similar presenters from the sceptered isle were Johnny Ball and Professor Heinz Wolff. Their different, light, entertaining approach to science probably did much the same for British kids as Mr Wizard did for the US. Other countries probably have similar figures they can point to.

      (Mentally crosses over to the alternative fuels story and pictures North Carolina being invaded by people on Eggmobiles performing strange chemical experiments i

    • I grew up (Pre 2nd grade) about 1/2 a mile from a place where hot air balloons were launched all the time. I used to ride my bike up there and watch them take off all summer long, fascinated by the "physics" (as a 6 year old understands them) of the whole thing.

      When we moved that fall I remember the thing that made me the saddest was that I would not get to watch the balloons take off anymore.

      The new house had cable tv, and the first show I watched after my first day of school in a new district (a wholly de
    • Which generation? (Score:5, Informative)

      by techno-vampire (666512) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @02:29AM (#19487507) Homepage
      You probably remember watching Mr. Wizard's World in the '80s. I remember watching Watch Mr. Wizard in the '50s. He inspired not one, but two generations, and that's something to be proud of!
  • by nbvb (32836)
    So long Mr. Wizard, and thanks for all the memories.

    I always wanted my own HERO robot ....
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @10:40PM (#19485947)
    I remember this one episode, he had this huge pulley system. And he lifted some heavier-than-if-trying-without-pulleys load that went up. And this other episode, he got this kid up on like a 10 story building, with this super long straw, and had him try to suck up the plum juice. There was so much space, human lungs can't create a large enough vacuum. So then he had him hook up a vacuum pump, and up the plum juice went.

    R.I.P. Mr. Wizard. I will never forget you.
    • I remember the plum juice episode. Even with the vacuum pump it didn't reach the top because of the nature of water (surface tension, density, viscosity...). I remembered that lesson years later when we were discussing a similar topic in a low level chemical engineering class.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mdsolar (1045926)
      That should not have been any more than a three story building. The atmosphere can only support a column of water about 32 feet high. This is why you have to put a pump at the bottom of a deep well (force pump) rather than using suction from the top.
      --
      Rent solar power with no installation cost: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-user s -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by DigiShaman (671371)
        As I understand it, one atmosphere (1 bar) = 14.7 PSI. When you pull a vacuum, the best you can do is reduce that to zero, or close to it.

        That said, when the combined fluid in the straw reached a certain weight, 14.7 PSI of pressure is no longer enough to "push" more fluid up higher (the other end is 0 PSI of course).

        Which leads me to my question. Why is 32 feet the limit? Given what I just stated, one would think the maximum height would change depending on two factors. 1. The diameter of the straw. 2. The
        • by mdsolar (1045926)
          On number 2 you are correct. A mercury (density about 13 g/cc) column is a familiar 29 inches or so. On number 2, if the straw is verrrry thin, you can get surface tension effects that can increase the column for water (capillary action). Redwoods push the limit for this. But, for typical straws/pipes the diameter does not matter. We are looking at pressure so it is mass per unit area that matters and this is the same with a thick or thin straw.
        • by Cadallin (863437) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:10AM (#19486611)
          1. The Diameter of the straw doesn't matter because pressure is only dependent on depth. The Pressure exerted on a body submerged 10m below the surface of a body of water is the same, regardless of whether its a swimming pool or the ocean (with one caveat, which I'll get to in a second)

          2. The Density of a fluid does matter. The denser a fluid is, the lower the height the pressure of the atmosphere can support it. So, ocean water, being denser than distilled or fresh water, can't be supported up to a full 32ft. Mercury, being exceptionally dense, over 13 times as dense as water, can only be supported to a height of 760 millimeters.

          The last fact I mentioned is why barometers are traditionally made using mercury. In order to accurately measure atmospheric pressure (useful in meteorology) you need to be able to see changes in the height of a fluid column (before we got more advanced equipment anyway). Water is obviously inconvenient for this, requiring a column 32 ft high, although it is very precise, because minute changes in pressure cause large fluctuations in the height of the column. This is why mm*Hg (millimeters of mercury) is a standard unit of pressure, with 760mm*Hg = 1atm.

          The caveat I mentioned above is that the pressure exerted on a body 10m under the surface in the ocean is higher, but only because salt water is denser than fresh water. It has nothing to do with the size of the body.

          • by jmv (93421)
            Water is obviously inconvenient for this, requiring a column 32 ft high, although it is very precise, because minute changes in pressure cause large fluctuations in the height of the column.

            Actually, I don't think using water would be very precise because the required vacuum would cause the water to boil until the vapour pressure went high enough to prevent the boiling. This mean you'd have to take into account that vapour pressure (which depends on temperature) in the measurement.
            • by Cadallin (863437)
              Water was good enough for precise measurements doing osmotic pressure experiments in back in the olden days before modern analytic equipment became available. Plenty of molar masses of compounds were determined this way. Chem Labs in industry and academia used to have glass osmotic pressure meters running up stories tall through the different floors. This was around 1900 or so. They weren't far off either. Things like mass spec provided more precision and better structural information, but usually thei
  • by PoitNarf (160194) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @10:41PM (#19485959)
    I distinctly remember watching an episode of Mr. Wizard when I was about 5 years old. He was showing the power of centripetal force; took a bucket full of water and made a quick vertical circle with it. All the water stayed in the bucket of course. To my 5 year old mind, that totally blew me away. Ever since then I was hooked on science. Thanks for showing me the light Mr. Wizard.
    • by hmccabe (465882)
      It's funny how strong an impression this show made on people. I remember a few weeks back, people were arguing about the Greenpeace/Apple fiasco and somebody mentioned styrofoam. Instantly, my mind pictured the episode where he made a styrofoam fish by heating the foam balls in a mold. Is there somebody doing a science show for kids these days? I'd do it, but I swear to damn much.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @10:54PM (#19486057)
    This is shitty news. I used to watch Mr. Wizard on Nickelodeon as a kid. My dad watched him as a kid in the 1950s.

    Of course, we had Carl Sagan on TV too.

    I don't really watch too much TV, but someone please tell me that there are others like him that promoted reason and experimentation. Is it Bill Nye? Is there someone else? Where do gets get their appreciation of critical thinking and the scientific method? Who are the media-friendly scientist role models of today?
  • by DCheesi (150068) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @10:58PM (#19486077) Homepage
    Ahh, the guy who caused me to "forget" how to swallow, just in time for a visit with my super-cook aunt :)

    I watched an episode where he demonstrated that swallowing is more sophisticated than just throwing food down your throat. I subsequently tried to "observe" my own swallow reflex; but, being a true reflex action, conscious observation disrupted the whole process. Then I started to get scared that I might swallow wrong and choke myself; from there, the self-consciousness made it impossible to swallow properly, and I could only (literally) choke down a few swallows of food in a sitting.

    Everyone wondered why I wasn't chowing down as usual, but it wasn't until the end of the trip that I admitted what was going on. Eventually, of course, I got over it, and I can now shovel food down my throat with the best of them :) However, I still have trouble swallowing pills, or chugging a beer, because I re-learned the swallow reflex in a way that prevented too much food going down at once.

    Nonetheless, I think Mr. Wizard's departure is well worth noting. A toast to Mr Wizard! :-)
  • by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @11:12PM (#19486183)
    Thank you very much. I used to watch your show religiously as a kid.
  • I was only 9 when "Watch Mr. Wizard" went off the air, but I still remember it well. Yes, I'm an old fart. No, I didn't remember the correct name, everyone always just called it, "Mr Wizard".
  • Wow, i am in my mid-30s and I never saw this guy and only heard of him via TV show jokes etc. I thought he was dead. Go figure... sounds like a lot of you really loved him. May have to pick up his DVDs at some point.
    • by Laebshade (643478)
      I'm 24, and I watched him on Nick. But they were probably reruns, but still... what I remember about the show is an episode where he and this kid made dirty water (grass, food coloring, etc.), then used evaporation to get fresh water. Totally awesome. Mr. Wizard and Mr. Rogers were the two best edutainers of a bygone era.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I'm in my mid/late 30s, too. I used to watch him all of the time on Nickelodeon ("Mr. Wizard's World") in the mid-80s. He had a very basic approach to science but tried lots of different things, even the science behind pyrotechnics.

      It was really great because all of his helpers were fellow teens or pre-teens who actually did the experiments. He just directed them, except for the really dangerous experiments, of course. So, it really helped to get kids involved because you watched other kids doing thin
    • I'm also mid-30s and I remember he was on Nickelodeon when I was growing up; we saw reruns all the time. Back then my dad once said he saw Mr. Wizard snap at a dumb kid. He said the kid wasn't paying attention to what Mr. Wizard was trying to talk about, and kept picking up other things on the table, and Mr. Wizard finally lost his patience and maybe raised his voice at the kid a bit, you know, to get him to shape up a little. My father thought that was pretty funny. I said, no way, the Mr. Wizard I know wo
    • Wow, i am in my mid-30s and I never saw this guy and only heard of him via TV show jokes etc. I thought he was dead. Go figure... sounds like a lot of you really loved him.

      I'm 29 and I've got fond, if vaguely frustrating, memories of Mr. Wizard.

      We didn't have cable for most of my childhood. Initially it wasn't available where we lived, and then it was too expensive. We used to visit my grandparents in Louisville, KY and I hate to say that one of the high points of the trip was their cable television. I u

  • Mr. Wizard not only was an intro to science for us 40+ year olds, he was also the figure being satirized by Dr. Science ("Remember, he's not a real doctor!" "I have a Master's Degree" "In SCIENCE!") so he is, in a sense, two pop-culture icons for the price of one!
    • by n8ur (230546)
      Ask Dr. Science is great, but I like the parody on the "Dinosaurs" show -- Ask Mr. Lizard -- who invariably blew up his young assistant. The tag line was "Looks like we're going to need another Timmy!"
  • by WidescreenFreak (830043) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @11:36PM (#19486357) Homepage Journal
    He wouldn't want us to mourn but rather to celebrate and learn. After all, life and death are, as he would say, "based on scientific principles". :)

    Godspeed, Mr. Wizard, and thanks for the memories!
  • generational gap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by f1055man (951955) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @11:43PM (#19486389)
    Interesting to see who knows who he is and who doesn't. He was on from 50s to mid 60s, a brief stint in the early 70s and then throughout the eighties to early 90s. So as a child of the 80s, I share something in common with the boomers, my parents, but not with my older cousins. If you were born in the 60s or early 70s you probably missed out on something great. My condolences to all of you.

    It's also worth mentioning that he not only reached kids through his tv shows, thousands of teachers and later science shows learned from his example as well. So even if you don't know who he is, it's likely your science teachers did. Having influenced millions over the last 50 years, it becomes hard to comprehend just how much of our technological society we owe to Mr. Wizard.
    • If you were born in the 60s or early 70s you probably missed out on something great.

      On the contrary. I was born in 1970 and I used to watch his show every day after getting home from school in the mid-1980s on Nickelodeon. You only missed out during that time if you didn't have cable. :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Smackintosh (1009941)
      Heh, apparently you missed the intense math portions of Mr. Wizard's show.

      I was born in the early 70s, so was ages 9-19 during the 80s. How would that have prevented us from watching the program? I too loved seeing Mr. Wizard. May he rest in peace.

      A tangential comment if I may...Those were simpler and better times to be quite honest. At least for children. We had honest-to-goodness classic shows to watch like Bugs Bunny and The Little Rascals. How they don't broadcast those shows any longer I'll
  • I loved his show! I'm 20 and I remeber watching it and being very upset when it wasn't on TV (localy at least). I learned so much about science and he is one of the reason I am going to go for my phd. I remeber clearly the episode he showed where absolute zero came from:)

    My condolences to his family. He was an awesome guy!
    • by Deadstick (535032)
      Fruit, cereal, milk, bread and butter. Or other foods for variety, such as eggs or breakfast meat.

      rj
  • Brings me back (Score:2, Insightful)

    by spiralpath (1114695)
    Mr. Wizard had a huge impact on me as well. I remember watching him, 3-2-1 Contact, and later Bill Nye and Beakman's World. There was an episode where he had some hydrophobic sand that he'd poured into a fishtank. It floated on the surface and when he plunged his hand into the water, it coated it like a glove. Pulled his hand out, it wasn't wet.

    However many years later, and I am doing after-school science programming for a company called Mad Science. We have a kit with the sand in it, and I get to do t
  • So long, and thanks for all the experiments.
  • My only regret is... that I have... boneitis! [gak]
  • by vena (318873) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:09AM (#19486599)
    baking soda and aluminum foil, when heated in water, can remove tarnish from silver
    how to cut a piece of paper so it makes a hole big enough to jump through
    how to crush a metal box without using your hands, only hot and cold water
    a bucket of water can stop a bullet
  • by supabeast! (84658) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:55AM (#19487005)
    Some guys remember that special gym teacher, who taught them to act like big lugnuts.
    Others remember screaming drill sergeants.
    A few even remember the crazy wino who would buy them a six pack of beer in exchange for one of the cans.
    Lots of people have made men out of boys.

    But it was Mr. Wizard who made us nerds.

    He is sorely missed.
  • Uh-oh (Score:3, Funny)

    by Bongo Bill (853669) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:25AM (#19487173) Homepage
    I think we're gonna need another Mr. Wizard!
  • by antdude (79039) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @02:09AM (#19487419) Homepage Journal
    I was searching for "Mr. Wizard" on Google Video for some cool clips and even episodes, and stumbled this interview that you people might be interested:

    "In his four-part (each part is posted separately) oral history interview, host Don Herbert describes his early years as an actor on stage ... all and radio before turning to television where he created the classic children's science series "Watch Mr. Wizard". He details his hosting of the show, as well as working with his young assistants. He talked about his simultaneous work as "G.E. Theatre's" "progress reporter," hosting a different three-minute commercial segment for each episode through the majority of run. He talks about the later incarnations of the "Mr. Wizard" franchise. He also mentions his appearances on morning and late-night television talk shows."

    1 [google.com]
    2 [google.com]
    3 [google.com]
    4 [google.com]
    • One reason for the longevity and quality of his program was, paradoxically, that it did not have to make money. It was considered public affairs programming.

      Broadcasters used to have to meet certain minimum public interest service requirements as a condition of their license. This meant that they had to provide a certain quantity public affairs and educational programming, and they had to broadcast opposing views on controversial topics.

      In the 1980s, the Reagan administration appointees on the FCC abolishe
  • As suggested by the Skepchicks [skepchick.org], let's all observe a moment of science in his honor.

    Go out and do an experiment, and if you can, do it for some kids.
  • by SirBruce (679714) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @03:28AM (#19487791) Homepage
    Perfect Tommy: Emilio Lizardo. Wasn't he on TV once?

    Buckaroo Banzai: You're thinking of Mr. Wizard.

    Reno: Emilio Lizardo is a top scientist, dummkopf.

    Perfect Tommy: So was Mr. Wizard.
  • Strangely, I have a memory of The Matrix whenever I hear the name "Mr. Wizard"...

    Mr. Wizard. Get me the hell out of here.
  • ..Well, I'm of an age where I've never even seen an episode myself. But I certainly know who he was and what his significance continues to be: Every person who significantly inspired and mentored me as I've grown up was inspired themselves by this man as they grew up.

    I'm very aware that I owe a lot to him... Indirectly.

    RIP

  • It's sad, but I think today's youth take technology for granted and I don't think today's youth would have been as interested in his show.

    It's a damn shame. I think shows like Mr. Wizard sparked an interest in science, in a generation of kids, that made the US a technological powerhouse.

    Hopefully something like Mr. Wizard will attract today's kids to science. The future of our country depends on it.

    -ted
  • Cheers sir, and thank you for everything you've shown me. :)

    I still remember lessons on how air moves in nature and misc other things because of that show. :)

I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman

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