Before there was Bill Nye the Science Guy, there was Mr. Wizard. In fact, in Mr. Wizard’s obituary — his real name is Don Herbert — Bill Nye wrote, “”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”. And he’s right — it really did all start with Don Herbert. And today’s his birthday, so it’s only natural that we’re celebrating.
So, who is Don Herbert? It’s probably a name you haven’t heard in a while, and we’re willing to bet your kids have absolutely no idea who he is. Well, first of all, he was born on July 10, 1917, and, before becoming a television star, he was a bomber pilot in World War II. It wasn’t until 1951 that his show, Watch Mr. Wizard, came out. It was simple, really: Herbert would just perform experiments for kids, teaching viewers at home about the wonders of science. Despite — or perhaps because of — its simplicity, the show was extremely successful, and there were more than 500 live episodes before it was canceled in 1965. But was he done? Not at all.
Due to Watch Mr. Wizard‘s undeniable success, Herbert decided to produce films in the same vein as the television show, including Experiment: The Story of Scientific Search and the Science 20 series. And then he still wasn’t done: In 1983, Herbert began Mr. Wizard’s World, which appeared on Nickelodeon until 1990.
Don Herbert passed away in 2007 at the age of 89, but we’re honoring his would-be 96th birthday anyway. It’s a no-brainer, really. Sure, his shows may not be on anymore, but Herbert was — or is — a pretty big deal. He used his shows to demonstrate the union of the everyday and the seemingly impossible. Essentially, Don Herbert made science cool, which makes him pretty cool in our book. Happy birthday, Mr. Wizard!
Oh, and because it’s your lucky day, we’ve included a set of videos from Herbert’s experimenting days. There’s one from his original Watch Mr. Wizard days, and one from the later Mr. Wizard’s World series.