herbert-don-cp-3115323

Don Herbert, seen in this 1978 photo, 'taught kids how to use the thinking skills of a scientist' in his role as Mr. Wizard. ((David Pickoff/Associated Press))

Don Herbert, an American actor who was host and creator of the Canadian program Mr. Wizard, has died.

Herbert, 89,died Tuesday of bone cancer at his home in Los Angeles.

As Mr. Wizard, he introduced the baby boom generation to the principles of science.

Herbert created the part in 1951 for the half-hour NBC show Watch Mr. Wizard.

On a simple set that looked like a workshop, he demonstrated experiments using household items while a neighbour boy or girl looked on.

The show was associated with a network of science clubs and produced 547 live broadcasts between 1951 to 1964. It also won a Peabody award for TV excellence.

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

"He modelled how to predict and measure and analyze. … The show today might seem slow but it was in-depth and forced you to think along. You were learning about the forces of nature."

Herbert also urged children to recreate the experiments at home.

In the 1970s, Herbert came to Canada to create Mr. Wizard, a similar show shot at the CJOH-TV studios in Ottawa, and carried on the CBC nationwide. The 26 episodes, hosted by Herbert,also ran in the U.S.

In 1983, he developed Mr. Wizard's World, a faster-paced version of the show for Nickelodeon. This time the revival was produced in Calgary and ran until 1990.

When Late Night with David Letterman debuted in 1982, Herbert was one of the first guests.

Born in Waconia, Minn., Herbert studied at teachers' college and served as a U.S. Army Air Corps pilotduring the Second World War. He worked as an actor, model and radio writer before starting Watch Mr. Wizard in Chicago on NBC.

He is survived by six children and stepchildren, and by his second wife, Norma.