Donald Jeffrey Herbert
(July 10, 1917 – June 12, 2007), better known as "Mr. Wizard",
was the host of two popular television shows about science aimed
Herbert was a general
science and English major at the University of Wisconsin-La
Crosse who was interested in drama, until his career as an actor
was interrupted by World War II when he joined the United States
Army as a private. He later became an officer and joined the
United States Army Air Corps and became a B-24 bomber pilot who
flew 56 missions with the Fifteenth Air Force and participated
in the invasion of Italy. When Herbert was discharged in 1945 he
was a captain and had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and
the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.
After the war, Herbert
worked at a radio station in Chicago where he acted in
children's programs such as It's Your Life (1949) that was a
documentary health series. It was during this time that Herbert
formulated the idea of Mr. Wizard and a general science
experiments show that utilized the new medium of television.
Herbert's idea was accepted by the Chicago NBC station and the
series Watch Mr. Wizard premiered on March 3, 1951. 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. 547 live
episodes were created before it was canceled in 1965. Herbert
won a Peabody Award for his work on the program.
After his show was
canceled, Herbert produced films for junior and senior high
schools, wrote several books on science, and developed a 1969
Mr. Wizard Science Center located outside Boston, which no
The show Watch Mr.
Wizard was briefly revived by NBC in the 1971-1972 season.
In 1983 Herbert
developed Mr. Wizard's World, a faster-paced version of his show
that was shown three times a week on the cable channel
Nickelodeon. The show ran until 1990, and reruns were shown
until 2000, making it the longest running show on Nickelodeon.
In 1994, Herbert
developed another new series of 15-minute spots called Teacher
to Teacher with Mr. Wizard. The spots highlighted individual
elementary science teachers and their projects. The series was
sponsored by the National Science Foundation and was shown on
Herbert won a Peabody Award for his work on
Watch Mr. Wizard.
Three Thomas Alva Edison National Mass Media Awards.
In 1991, Herbert received the Robert A. Millikan award from the
American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) for his "notable
and creative contributions to the teaching of physics."
Also from the author of Let's Build Boats
Let's Build Boats!
Styrofoam plates, cups, trays tape (plastic tape works best in
water) straws (flexible) balloons (long, skinny, and round) pipe
cleaners milk cartons bamboo skewers sponges egg cartons
popsicle sticks fish bobbers, fishing line corks paper or
plastic for sails string wood scraps nails foil glue
(water-resistant and nontoxic, for use in joining items that are
not tied, taped, or poked together. Avoid rubber cement, which
is toxic for young children.) hammer.
Don Herbert, Mr. Wizard's
Supermarket Science (New York: Random House, 1980), pp. 8-9.