Monday, June 18, 2007

RIP Don Herbert

Sad, sad, sad. Last week saw the passing of Don Herbert, better known as Mr. Wizard. He was a hero to many of us across several generations. We was the Mr. Rogers of science -- kind, gentle, excited, and mesmerizing. You got drawn into his experiments and wanting to know why things happened, to understand how the world works. For young minds like mine, he brought science to life, giving you not only a concrete visual to pique your interest but the first glimmering that the way to understand this happening that you just witnessed was through universal principles. Mr. wizard let you know that the world was not only an interesting place, but also one that was well ordered and whose structure could be understood by someone like you and me.

It was a simpler show. Unlike much of the kid's science programming that followed it, it didn't have the fast-paced flash. It had a contemplative rhythm, as Jacob Freeze so elegantly describes. There was intentionally room left for young minds to engage. Science was not thrown at you, but, rather, Mr. Wizard made sure you were invited in to the scientific mindset. Mr. Wizard was more concerned with showing science to be fascinating than cool.

He was not a scientist by trade, but majored in both general sciences and English in his time at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. No one should need a better example than Don Herbert to illustrate the power and value of a well-rounded, liberal education.

In these times, when a popular understanding of science is more important than ever and under attack more than ever, we need another Don Herbert. But, sadly, we've lost the only one we had. Rest in peace, Mr. Wizard, you are loved and admired. Thank you for all the years and all the inspiration.