By Gregory Kirschling
Updated June 14, 2007 at 12:00 PM EDT

So Mr. Wizard is dead, and I am reminded of one of my earliest memory of 1980s childhood. I’m in front of the TV watching Mr. Wizard’s World, the Nickelodeon science-experiment show hosted by the now-deceased Don Herbert, a sweater-wearing sorcerer who, to a kid staring up at the TV, felt as simultaneously mythic and approachable as Santa Claus. All of a sudden, according to my memory, Mr. Wizard pours a clear pitcher of plain old water on top of a medium-sized tin gas-can type of thing—and, upon contact, the gas-can type of thing shrivels inward onto itself, just like the Wicked Witch of the West. Up to then, I’d certainly never seen anything so otherworldly. Water melts metal! Of course I don’t remember how he did it, and, never providing myself with a good education in the sciences (never took chemistry; science isn’t that cool), I still don’t know how he did it. Which possibly makes me, even today, not as smart as a fifth-grader.

That’s just about the only thing I remember from Mr. Wizard’s World, though I undoubtedly watched hours and hours of the show back then, alongside old Nickelodeon classics like You Can’t Do That on Television, Danger Mouse, and Turkey Television. (Anybody else remember the Liver Milkshake?) When I close my eyes I do also see Mr. Wizard guiding a kid’s hand as he points a long, thin prodding stick up at a balloon, which then explodes into a fireball upon contact. That clip is actually reproduced in this Mr. Wizard’s World DVD promo, which includes a lot of fireball action, enough to make me wonder how many times Don Herbert accidentally singed his eyebrows off.

Got any good Mr. Wizard memories? Anybody know how Mr. Wizard melted metal with water? Seriously, I always meant to figure that out. The guy dying reminds me that I never did.

addCredit(“Don Herbert: Everett Collection”)