Remembering Mr. Wizard – A True Inspiration

mrwizard2.pngAs I was driving home this evening, I received a call from a fellow science teacher who shared the news of the passing of Don Herbert. As I reflect on the impact Mr. Wizard had on science education and me personally, I can’t help but be thankful for his dedication and contagious enthusiasm for learning science. It’s difficult to find a science teacher who doesn’t have a favorite Mr. Wizard story. A recently retired teacher loved to tell the story of how Mr. Wizard taught him how to cook a hot dog by literally electrocuting the hot dog using a lamp cord and 120 volts of electricity. I remember watching Mr. Wizard’s World on Nickelodeon in the mid 1980’s and being impressed by the simplicity of the experiments but also the way Don made you want to conduct the experiments at home. Don Herbert made a career out of making science fun.

mrwizardearly.jpgDuring the late 1990’s, I was fortunate enough to get to work with Don on several projects, and I took the opportunity to ask for his advice as I started my television career. Don challenged me to do everything in my power to make science accessible to everyone. He reminded me to “be yourself… and don’t let those television producers put you in a white lab coat… just be yourself.” Don always preferred a casual sweater to a lab coat in his later years.

Don received an honorary doctorate from Sacred Heart University in Connecticut and I was invited to share a few science demos during his ceremony. While waiting to go on backstage, Don shared these thoughts on science education… “People call me a science teacher or a scientist, but I’m actually a science entertainer. I think of myself as a person who likes science and has the ability to communicate my enthusiasm about science over the airwaves. I really enjoy being a cheerleader of sorts for science… but I wouldn’t call myself a science teacher. That’s a job I have to leave to the pros.”

In place of their nightly bedtime story, I pulled my first edition copy of Mr. Wizard’s Supermarket Science from the shelves this evening for my boys and shared a few stories about one of the special people who inspired me to be a teacher.

Please click on comments to share your thoughts and memories about Don Herbert.

Visit the official Mr. Wizard website for more information.

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Comments (8)

  • J.R. Reply

    Coincidentally . .I was looking up a picture of Mr. Wizard to post a picture of him as a praise of thanks; to the experiment being discussed. I saw him preform this particular experiment on T.V. as a child.

    I saw the news and tears began to roll off my face.
    Rest in Peace ~ Don Herbert, A Truly Respectable and Honorable Man. We will miss you.

    June 13, 2007 at 12:38 am
  • Tom Heldreth Reply

    I retain such fond memories of dear Mr. Wizard. When I was a kid (I am 49 years old now), I used to be captivated by his show and looked forward to viewing it. As a science teacher myself now, I look back and realize in retrospect that Don must have been my inspiration to pursue a career in science and, ultimately, science education. He was certainly a role model par excellence! In my curriculum, we use Bill Nye, the Science Guy videos quite often. Now that I know that Mr. Wizard videos exist, I plan to order and use them as well.
    Jason, if you happen to be in contact with the Herbert family, please send them my condolences. Thank you for asking!

    Tom Heldreth

    June 13, 2007 at 6:40 am
  • Jeb Reply

    How very sad. Outside spaceflight and associated “Race to the Moon,” Mr. Wizard was, perhaps, the greatest single influence on kids in regard to science. Certainly, he was the only person who could bring science to a child’s hands and make it real rather than abstract.

    It was a disappointing Saturday morning when I had to make the decision – playing in my little league baseball game or watching Mr. Wizard?

    Thank you Mr. Wizard for all you have done for children young and now old. You are already greatly missed.

    June 13, 2007 at 8:25 am
  • Steve Reply

    Thanks for sharing your Mr. Wizard memories. I’ve spoken with Steve Jacobs, one of Don’s very close friends who worked on the original Mr. Wizard show, and the outpouring of e-mails and words of encouragement to the family have been amazing. We’re working on a tribute piece to Mr. Wizard on KUSA-TV 9NEWS in Denver next week.

    June 13, 2007 at 9:53 pm
  • Justin Reply

    It’s sad to see he passed away.

    (In the 3rd paragraph I believe honorary is misspelled 🙂 )

    June 15, 2007 at 5:45 pm
  • Steve Reply

    Thanks Justin! We fixed it.

    June 17, 2007 at 9:46 pm
  • Troy Sorrel Reply


    I have AS (Asperger’s Syndrome) a mild form of autism. I became excitedly interested in science once I started to watch Mr. Wizard’s World in 1982 on Nickelodeon. It was his inspiration into the fascinating world of science that I science became one of my obsessions growing up. We lost a pioneer in the field of demonstrations and why science is an important part of our lives. Don Herbert will be missed dearly. I would like to know if his Nickelodeon show is still available on DVD to share with my students. I am a special education teacher and visual representations help them when I give demonstrations of some of the basic science principles. I still expose my students to the fun world of science, even if they have severe disabilities. Just the look of interest in their eyes is what makes teaching children with autism the wonders of science which is beyond rewarding. Thanks for the tribute to Mr. Wizard, he was one of my mentors growing up.

    Troy Sorrel
    Downey, California
    Autism Support Teacher

    June 19, 2007 at 7:58 pm
  • President Obama… Please Let Me Help You Make Science Cool | Steve Spangler's Blog Reply

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