Whatever Happened To Mr. Wizard?

Don Herbert, born in 1917, was best known for his science-related shows. Referred to as "Mr. Wizard" due to his television projects "Watch Mr. Wizard" and "Mr. Wizard's World," Herbert was known for teaching children about science and technology in a creative way that appealed to them. Following World War II, Herbert dabbled in acting and wrote for radio shows before starting "Watch Mr. Wizard." Because of his pioneering approach to topics usually viewed as stuffy and dull, he was revered by many.

One such fan included Bill Nye. In a obituary piece for the Los Angeles Times following Herbert's death, Nye stated, "If any of you reading now have been surprised and happy to learn a few things about science watching "Bill Nye the Science Guy," keep in mind, it all started with Don Herbert." As mentioned, Herbert had two shows. The first, "Watch Mr. Wizard," premiered in 1952 and ran until 1965. In 1954, the show won a Peabody Award, which is specifically given to outstanding media in categories like entertainment and public service programming.

Don Herbert walked the line between being informative yet entertaining

After "Watch Mr. Wizard" was canceled in 1965 and briefly but unsuccessfully revived in the early 1970s, Don Herbert made occasional appearances on science-themed programs. Almost 20 years after "Watch Mr. Wizard" was canceled, Nickelodeon commissioned a revival of sorts in 1983, this time called "Mr. Wizard's World." This second incarnation of the show ran from 1983 to 1989. Many believed Herbert's shows were popular thanks to his ability to bridge the gap between presenting a science class and entertaining children.

He also understood how to present himself. Via Smithsonian Magazine, television veteran Steve Spangler once revealed that he called Herbert for advice after landing a gig hosting a children's show. In response, Herbert told Spangler to stay away from the lab coats. Per Spangler, "He [Herbert] said, 'You need to make science accessible to the masses. A lab coat can put people off — kids don't like that. That's why (my set) wasn't called my lab, it was called my garage, and we used household materials, not lab gear.'"

He never had any actual educational background in science

Don Herbert never forgot that he was teaching things to children. One of his former colleague's, Steve Jacobs, told CBS News that Herbert always reached for regular household items over scientific equipment to conduct his experiments. Alongside the fact this encouraged children to carry out investigations themselves, this choice perhaps also stemmed from the fact Herbert had only a small background in science thanks to his college education. He was thought to have taught himself most things, though his past experience as an actor presumably helped him with presenting the show.

Once "Mr. Wizard's World" ended, Herbert essentially retired from television, though he did release DVDs of his original shows so they could be viewed by a wider audience. He died in 2007 in Bell Canyon at the age of 89. Before his death, Herbert had been diagnosed with bone cancer. In his Los Angeles Times piece, Bill Nye mentioned how Herbert's pioneering method of "show, then tell" allowed those watching to gain a better understanding of what Herbert was doing.