John Henry Comstock

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John Henry Comstock
Born(1849 -02-24)February 24, 1849
DiedMarch 20, 1931(1931-03-20) (aged 82)
Alma materCornell University, Yale University
SpouseAnna Botsford Comstock
Scientific career
FieldsEntomology, Arachnology
InstitutionsCornell University

John Henry Comstock (February 24, 1849 – March 20, 1931) was an eminent researcher in entomology and arachnology and a leading educator. His work provided the basis for classification of butterflies, moths, and scale insects.

Early life and education[edit]

Comstock was born on February 24, 1849 in Janesville, Wisconsin. He studied at Cornell University, graduating in 1874. He also studied at Yale University and the University of Leipzig. In 1878 he married Anna Botsford. She was a wood engraver who beautifully illustrated many of his articles. Comstock became a professor of Nature Studies at Cornell.

Anna Botsford Comstock


Comstock worked as an instructor at Cornell until 1879. He worked at Vassar College from 1877 to 1879. Between 1879 and 1881 he became the chief Entomologist of the USDA in Washington, D.C. In 1882 he became professor of Entomology and Invertebrate Zoology at Cornell. He also did work in insect morphology and is best known as the co-proposer of the Comstock-Needham system with James George Needham. In 1893, John Henry Comstock and Simon Henry Gage founded the Comstock Publishing Company in order to make textbooks on microscopy, histology, and entomology available at a reasonable price to students and to publish the works of Anna Botsford Comstock on nature study.

Comstock, through his own work and that of his students, had a significant influence in the development of entomology departments throughout the United States.

He suffered a stroke on August 5, 1926, and continued to live as an invalid until his death on March 20, 1931.

The John Henry Comstock Award[edit]

A student fund book plate from Cornell University's Comstock Memorial Library in 1915

The Entomological Society of America gives out an award in each of its six branches to the outstanding graduate student of the year. This award is the John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award.


Comstock published many articles including:

  • Introduction to Entomology (1908).
  • A Manual for the study of insects (1930) jointly credited and illustrated by Anna Botsford Comstock.
  • The Spider book: a manual for the study of the spiders and near relatives (1912).
  • Notes on Entomology (Ithaca, 1875).
  • Annual Reports of Entomologist (Washington, 1879–1881).
  • Report on Cotton Insects (1879).
  • Second Annual Report of the Department of Entomology of Cornell University, including a monograph on Diaspinae (Ithaca, 1883).
  • an article on Hymenoptera in the "Standard Natural History" (Boston, 1884).

See also[edit]


  • Gage, Simon Henry (1914). "Retirement of Professor John Henry Comstock". The Cornell Countryman: 227–229.

About Henry and Anna:

  • "Anna Botsford Comstock," "John Henry Comstock," "Harrison Gray Dyar," "Mary Jane Rathbun," and "Robert Edwards Carter Stearns." In: American National Biography. New York: (Oxford University Press, 1999).

External links[edit]