Birth Date: July 10, 1917 / Age: 97
Birth Place: Waconia, Minnesota, USA
Biography: Donald Jeffry Herbert (born July 10, 1917 in Waconia, Minnesota), better known as Mr. Wizard, was the host of two popular television shows about science aimed at children.
Herbert was a General Science and English major at LaCrosse State Teachers College in Wisconsin who was interested in drama, until his career as an actor was interrupted by World War II when he joined the army as a private. He was 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 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, 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 and a young assistant 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; by 1954 it was broadcast by 91 stations. Mr. Wizard Science Clubs were started throughout North America, numbering 50,000 by the time the show was cancelled in 1965. The show moved to New York on September 5, 1955. The show was cited by the National Science Foundation and American Chemical Society for increasing interest in science, and Herbert won a Peabody Award.
After his show was cancelled, Herbert produced films for junior and senior high schools, wrote several books on science, and developed the Mr. Wizard Science Center located outside Boston. The show "Watch Mr. Wizard" was briefly revived by NBC from September 11, 1971 through September 2, 1972.
In 1984 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. Episodes of the original run were re-aired in 2005 on the digital cable channel "The Science Channel".