Cover photo for Eldon Newcomb's Obituary
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1919 Eldon 2022

Eldon Newcomb

January 19, 1919 — April 26, 2022


Eldon H. Newcomb died peacefully at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison on April 26, 2022.  He was born on January 19, 1919 in Columbia, Missouri.  He developed an appreciation for the beauty of nature at an early age.  His family moved to Kansas City, and there he became active in the Boy Scouts, earning the rank of Eagle Scout.  He loved to spend summers at Camp Osceola, Missouri (now the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation), where he was Nature Lore Director for many years.  After Pearl Harbor he enlisted in the Army and was stationed in West Africa and subsequently Egypt and Iran.  In his spare time in Africa he collected specimens of many previously undescribed insect species and sent them to a professor at Purdue for study.  He obtained his Ph.D. in Botany in 1949 at the University of Wisconsin under Folke Skoog.  That same year he married the love of his life, Joyce, in Kansas City, Missouri and they were together almost 73 years, separated only by death.  He became a full professor in the Botany Department at UW-Madison in 1958.  He brought the second electron microscope to the campus (the first was in the Physics Department) and his meticulous attention to technique enabled him to set the worldwide gold standard for quality of plant cell electron microscopy.  He studied plant cell physiology and fine structure and published many well received papers.  He chaired the Botany Department from 1982 to 1988 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1988.  The Newcomb Imaging Center in the Botany Department is named after him.  For details and samples of his electron micrographs, see  In his late years he enjoyed participating in the Optimist Club.  One of his notable recent observations was that there has been an enormous decline in the population of moths and butterflies since his youth.

He was preceded in death by his brother Norman (Fay) Newcomb, sister Betty Jo (Boyd) Rollins and daughter Barbara Newcomb.  He is survived by his wife Joyce R. Newcomb, son N. Robert (Maria Taveras) Newcomb, daughter Cynthia Newcomb, granddaughter Christine (Andrew Albee) Newcomb, grandson Charles (Renée) Newcomb, great-granddaughter Octavia Albee and great-grandson Jack Newcomb.  He was a loving father and husband who will be greatly missed.  His family expresses special thanks to the physicians and nurses at SSM Health Dean Medical Group, UW Health Rehabilitation Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison. At his request, his memorial celebration will be limited to family members.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Eldon and Joy Newcomb Research Support Grant at the University of Wisconsin Botany Department.

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