Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Mr. Wizard
Don Herbert, AKA Mr. Wizard, June 1978. David Pickoff/AP photo.

The world has lost a real wizard.

Not one from the fictional world of Harry Potter, but someone who, back in my Snot-Nose Days, brought the magic of science to the small screen. I refer, of course, to Don Herbert, the Mr. Wizard of television’s Watch Mr. Wizard, who died yesterday from complications of multiple myeloma at the age of 89.

I remember watching Mr. Wizard as a kid, doing his simple experiments and demonstrations - most of which used easily available household chemicals and which he encouraged viewers to replicate at home. In today’s Nanny State, that’d be a troublesome proposition, but back then things were simpler - and people were credited with having more common sense.

Along with the fabled Gilbert Chemistry Set, the Science Service’s “Things of Science” kits, and Estes model rockets, Mr. Wizard helped kindle a lifelong interest in science within Yours Truly, one that culminated in my earning a chemical engineering degree (cum laude!) from a Reasonably Prestigious University.

Harry Potter may be able to wave his wand and convert a turd into a diamond, but Mr. Wizard could show you how molten sulfur could change color from yellow to orange to red to black, all the while making your kitchen stink like Satan’s sphincter. That was real magic.

Ave atque vale, Don. We’ll miss you...

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