COMSTOCK, John Adams

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John Adams Comstock
John Adams Comstock

COMSTOCK, John Adams (1883-1970)[SS#561-50-9438], Illinois-born surgeon and nationally known authority on Lepidoptera who was an organizing participant in the Los Angeles Museum Channel Islands Biological Survey (1939-1941). Comstock was Director of Science at the Los Angeles County Museum from 1928-1948.

Comstock, Don Meadows, and George Willett made the first reconaissance trip to San Clemente Island on February 18-19, 1939. Later, during the summer of 1939, Comstock joined the fourth Los Angeles County Museum Channel Islands Biological Survey for a week on Santa Cruz Island.

Comstock died on December 26, 1970 at his home in Del Mar, California just short of his 88th birthday on January 30, 1971.

Comstock collected on:

  • San Clemente Island
  • Santa Cruz Island
  • Santa Rosa Island

» Comstock, J. A. Introductory note to contributions from the Los Angeles Museum-Channel Islands Biological Survey in Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences 38(3): 133-134, 1939

» Comstock, J. A. Contributions from the Los Angeles Museum-Channel Islands Biological Survey 33: Brief notes on the expeditions conducted between March 16, 1940 and December 14, 1941 in Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences 45(2): 94-107.

» Comstock, J. A. The Butterflies of California (1927). Note: Originally printed in two editions. The Regular Edition was bound in green leatherette and sold for $9.00. The De Luxe Edition, sporting the imprint of a butterfly embossed on its brown leather cover, was advertised as "hand illuminated and inscribed by the author" and sold for $15.00. Although the De Luxe Edition was supposed to be limited to 200 numbered copies, the actual number issued was probably much smaller. Nor is it known how many of the Regular Edition were actually printed.

Island Collections~

Santa Cruz Island 1939

Santa Rosa Island J. A. Comstock LACM November 9, 1941 LACM-449 Batrachoseps pacificus Herps
Santa Rosa Island J. A. Comstock LACM December 5, 1941 LACM-452 Batrachoseps pacificus Herps
Santa Rosa Island J. A. Comstock LACM December 5, 1941 LACM-453 Batrachoseps pacificus Herps
Santa Rosa Island J. A. Comstock LACM December 5, 1941 LACM-454 Batrachoseps pacificus Herps
Santa Rosa Island J. A. Comstock LACM December 5, 1941 LACM-455 Batrachoseps pacificus Herps
Santa Rosa Island J. A. Comstock LACM December 5, 1941 LACM-456 Batrachoseps pacificus Herps
Santa Rosa Island J. A. Comstock LACM December 5, 1941 LACM-457 Batrachoseps pacificus Herps
Santa Rosa Island J. A. Comstock LACM December 5, 1941 LACM-458 Batrachoseps pacificus Herps
Santa Rosa Island J. A. Comstock LACM December 5, 1941 LACM-459 Batrachoseps pacificus Herps

In the News~

February 2, 1941 [SBNP]: “An eight-week expedition to the Channel Islands off the southern California coast to search for biological specimens will be undertaken on February 14 by a group of scientists from the Los Angeles County Museum. The party will be headed by Dr. John A. Comstock, director of history at the museum, and will include George Willett, ornithologist, Lloyd Martin, entomologist; George P. Kanakoff, invertebrate zoologist, and Jack C. Von Bloeker, mammalogist. Permission for the expedition was granted recently by the Board of Supervisors. The party will spend a week on each of the eight islands, gathering specimens, and will return to the mainland April 11.”


by John Comstock
Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences, Los Angeles, California
Vol. XXXVIII September-December, 1939

Introductory Note Early in the fall of 1938 we were approached by Prof. Don Meadows with a proposal to organize a Biological Survey of the Channel Islands of the California coastal waters, under the direction of the Los Angeles Museum. The plan as submitted showed an excellent grasp of the opportunities and factors involved, and outlined a type of organization and method of procedure that immediately appealed to us.

Accordingly, after several conferences, held in December, 1938, a communication was addressed to the Board of Governors of the Los Angeles Museum requesting their approval of the survey along the lines suggested in the submitted recommendations. This request received favorable action of the Board on December 24, 1938.

Our proposal covered a five year period of study and exploration of the several islands, including particularly Santa Catalina, San Clemente, San Nicolas, San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Anacapa, with the possible inclusion of the Coronados. The plan laid particular stress on the life forms and their ecological relationships, together with geological and archeological considerations.

After considerable correspondence the necessary permits were secured from the Navy Department, the National Park Service, and owners of such of the islands as are in private hands.

Transportation to and from the islands was assured through the helpful cooperation of Captain Allan Hancock of the Allen Hancock Foundation of the University of Southern California, and the California Fish and Game Commission.

The first reconnaissance trip was made to San Clemente Island on February 18, 1939, returning on the 19th. The party included Prof. Meadows, Mr. George Willett of the Museum staff, and the writer, together with a group of students from the Hancock Foundation.

The second expedition left Terminal Island for San Clemente on the morning of April 1, 1939, and returned April 8. The personnel included Prof. Meadows. Theodore Reddick, M. B. Dunkle and Mr. Russell Sprong, together with the following members of the Museum staff: Arthur Woodward, archeologist; Jack C. von Bloeker, mammalogist; Lloyd Martin, entomologist.

The third trip was to Santa Barbara Island. May 27 to 30, 1939. The party included all who took part in the second expedition, and in addition James DeLong, geologist.

The fourth and most ambitious of the 1939 operations was in the field from July 21 to August 19, and included a week of work on each of four islands, namely San Nicolas, San Miguel. Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz. It was unusually successful from the standpoint of amount and variety of materials collected. Particularly noteworthy was the helpful cooperation of the Vails, on Santa Rosa, and of Mr. and Mrs. Stanton on Santa Cruz. Mr. and Mrs. Agee, through their representative, Reginald Lamberth on San Nicolas, and Herbert S. Lester, representing Mr. R. L. Brooks on San Miguel gave valued assistance. The party, in addition to the original contingent (minus only Theo. Reddick, herpetologist) included George Kanakotf and Jewel E. Lewis. The writer joined the expedition for the final week on Santa Cruz.

The fifth and final trip of the year embraced a month's work on San Clemente from November 9 to December 10. The party included Arthur and Barker Woodward. George and Ora Willett, George Kanakoff and Jack von Blocker. This unit concentrated mainly on special studies in archeology, ornithology, mammalogy and entomology, although some collecting was done in other fields of science.

During this period a sixth unit visited San Clemente for three days of intensive work in botany, entomology' and herpetology. This party made its base camp at the head of a canyon leading to Mosquito Cove, while the first unit worked at the southern end of the island. This sixth trip extended from November 23 to 26 and those who participated were Don Meadows. Theo. Reddick, Russell Sprong, M. B. Dunkle. Lloyd Martin and E. C. Williams.

The dates of these expeditions, and personnel of each are noted in detail because of the fact that collections made by the several participants have resulted in some important items, that will later find their way into scientific literature.

It is the hope of the survey participants that, at the conclusion of this five year effort, means will be found for insuring the publication of results in a creditable manner. In the interim it will be our policy to publish short papers in the "Bulletin" from time to time, recording new species and races, and noting pertinent facts with relation to distribution, occurrence and ecology of the island species. The first series of these papers follows.

John A. Comstock, Director of Science Los Angeles Museum