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Cancer Claims Don Herbert, TV's 'Mr. Wizard'

Don Herbert and an unidentified boy conduct an experiment on the TV series Watch Mr. Wizard, circa 1955. NBC Television/Getty Images hide caption

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NBC Television/Getty Images

Don Herbert and an unidentified boy conduct an experiment on the TV series Watch Mr. Wizard, circa 1955.

NBC Television/Getty Images

Television's "Mr. Wizard," Don Herbert, who taught generations of children about science, died at his Southern California home Tuesday. He was 89.

From 1951 through 1964, Watch Mr. Wizard delighted young viewers with the joys of science on a set built like a simple workshop. Herbert would demonstrate experiments using household items and encourage kids to "try this at home."

Herbert received a Peabody Award for the science show in 1954.

Watch Mr. Wizard was briefly revived in the 1970s and then again in the 1980s, after Herbert retooled the show with a faster pace for the Nickelodeon channel.

Herbert was a drama major in college, but his plans changed during World War II when he enlisted in the Army. As an Army Air Corps officer, Herbert flew 56 bomber missions and participated in the invasion of Italy.

On the official Mr. Wizard Web site, a posting from his family reads that Herbert had lost his battle with cancer and died surrounded by his family — just one month shy of his 90th birthday.

"He really taught kids how to use the thinking skills of a scientist," former colleague Steve Jacobs told the Associated Press.

Born in Waconia, Minn., Herbert was a 1940 graduate of LaCrosse State Teachers. After the war, he worked as an actor, model and radio writer before starting Watch Mr. Wizard in Chicago on NBC.

The show moved to New York after several years.

— NPR's Carrie Kahn, with reporting from the Associated Press.