Grant Imahara, who passed away on July 13, 2020, was most notable for his role on the television show MythBusters. Imahara showed audiences that science can be fun and that learning about the world can be incredibly interesting.
Imahara was born on October 23, 1970, in Los Angeles. He attended the University of Southern California and majored in electrical engineering. While at school, he worked with the USC School of Cinematic Arts, applying his engineering knowledge to television and stage production. After graduating, Imahara was hired by Lucasfilm as an engineer where he worked on such films as the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Galaxy Quest, The Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and Terminator 3: Rise of The Machines.
In 2005, Imahara was invited by his friend Jamie Hyneman to join MythBusters, a science entertainment show in which the hosts designed and conducted experiments to test the validity of a variety of claims stemming from myths, rumors, news stories, and internet videos. They also replicated movie scenes to test whether feats seen on the big screen are truly possible. As a member of the show’s “build team,” Imahara designed and engineered the robots and other electronics for special effects.
Each episode is usually divided between the main duo, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, and the build team, Katie Byron, Tory Belleci, and Imahara, each group testing one or two popular myths or rumors. In testing these myths, both teams re-create the conditions for the myth and attempt to duplicate the results claimed to have been achieved under those conditions. Often, these experiments involve blowing things up and putting the show’s mascot, a test dummy named Buster, through a series of grueling, albeit hilarious ordeals.
Throughout each episode, you can clearly see the cast having a blast as they design weird experiments, engineer wacky machinery and devices, and explode the bizarre myths that come across their sets. The cast’s devotion to having fun while learning about interesting things from a scientific perspective helped to popularize science for a general audience, making MythBusters one of the most successful shows on the Discovery Channel.
In 2014, Imahara left MythBusters, and in 2016, he reunited with Katie Byron and Tory Belleci to host the Netflix original series White Rabbit Project. Similar to MythBusters, White Rabbit investigated various scientific questions, including the conditions under which particular jailbreaks and heists are possible as well as the viability of “superpowers” depicted in films and the technologies that could be employed to re-create them.
Imahara also devoted considerable time to robot fighting. He participated in the first season of BattleBots with his robot Deadblow and later returned as a judge. Imahara also appeared in several fan-made sci-fi shows, his most notable role as Sulu in Star Trek: Continues.1
Sadly, Grant Imahara died on July 13, 2020, at the age of forty-nine from a brain aneurysm. The day after his death, Adam Savage appeared on the podcast Still Untitled and shared his favorite memories of working with Imahara. On the show, he recounted several of Imahara’s achievements while working in the film-tech industry along with the personal idiosyncrasies that made him such a fun and endearing person to work with. The Discovery Channel released a statement commemorating Imahara, saying, “We are heartbroken to hear this sad news about Grant. He was an important part of our Discovery family and a really wonderful man.”2 The Discovery Channel aired a nonstop marathon of MythBusters for the next several days to honor his memory. In a tweet, cohost Adam Savage said of Imahara,
I’m at a loss. No words. I’ve been part of two big families with Grant Imahara over the last 22 years. Grant was a truly brilliant engineer, artist and performer, but also just such a generous, easygoing, and gentle PERSON. Working with Grant was so much fun. I’ll miss my friend.3
Imahara, the only member of the MythBusters build team with a STEM background, was affectionately called the “geek”—a true honor considering the accomplished geeks he worked alongside. He had an amazing grasp of technology, could easily troubleshoot most problems, and could build almost anything. Imahara’s coworkers and fans have described him as “funny and generous.”
Thanks to Grant Imahara, many people came to appreciate how science can be fun and how we can use it to understand wonderful and wacky things about the world. And thanks in large part to Imahara’s engineering brilliance, the myth that science is a purely academic realm reserved solely for people in white lab coats was thoroughly busted.
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2. “Grant Imahara, MythBusters Alum and BattleBots Judge, Dies at 49,” DNews, https://www.discovery.com/dnews/grant-imahara--mythbusters-alum-and-battlebots-judge--dies-at-49 (accessed July 23, 2020).
3. Adam Savage, Twitter, https://twitter.com/donttrythis/status/1282885559816347648.