Gary Comstock

Gary Lynn Comstock, Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor of Philosophy at North Carolina State University, conducts research on ethical questions in the biological sciences. He is especially interested in animal minds and the moral relevance of what's known and not known about the brains and behaviors of nonhuman mammals. An award-winning researcher and teacher, Comstock's New York Times essay, "You Should Not Have Let Your Baby Die," received Honorable Mention in the PEA Soup 2017 Ethics Prize competition. Two years earlier, he was named an NC State Alumni Association Outstanding Teacher of the Year. A coauthor of Chimpanzee Rights: The Philosophers' Brief (Routledge, 2019), and coeditor of The Moral Rights of Animals (Lexington, 2017), Comstock wrote Research Ethics: A Philosophical Guide to the Responsible Conduct of Research (Cambridge, 2013) and Vexing Nature? On the Ethical Case Against Agricultural Biotechnology (Kluwer, 2000).

For two years (2007-09), Comstock was ASC Fellow of the National Humanities Center. He continued there for three years (2009-2012) as Editor-in-chief of On the Human, one of the Center's digital humanities projects. Comstock directed the online OpenSeminar in Research Ethics, and is editor of two more books, Life Science Ethics (2002; 2nd ed., 2010) and Is There a Moral Obligation to Save the Family Farm? (1987). He served on the committee that coauthored On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research: Third Edition (2009).

Prior to his current position, Comstock directed the NC State research and professional ethics program, and was assistant, associate, and professor of religious studies at Iowa State University. There he produced two editions of a textbook, Religious Autobiographies (1994; 2nd ed., 2003), won his College's Award for Excellence in Outreach, and contributed to establishing the Bioethics Institute, a faculty development workshop that helped some five hundred scientists to integrate discussions of ethics into their courses. He is past president of the Society for Agriculture and Human Values and a popular speaker who has lectured across Europe and in Russia, Israel, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, and Belize. His work has been translated into Spanish, German, Portuguese, Chinese, Russian, and Bulgarian.

Comstock served as principal investigator, co-PI or consultant on some thirty grants totaling more than a million dollars, including major awards from the European Commission, the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture, and the National Agricultural Biotechnology Council. He earned graduate degrees from the University of Chicago after completing undergraduate work at Wheaton College where he met his wife, Karen Werner Comstock, the quilt designer. They have four children.

Photo courtesy of Jon Rucker