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First NC State Phytotron director passes away

Dr. Robert “Jack” Downs — who helped design NC State University’s Southeastern Plant Environmental Laboratory, or Phytotron, and served as its director for many years — has died.

An expert on controlled environments, Downs was a professor of botany at NC State University from 1965 until his retirement in 1993. In addition to numerous professional awards and honors, he published more than 130 papers and frequently served as a consultant on plant growth, lighting and planning and design of controlled-environment facilities.

Before coming to NC State, Downs had earned international acclaim at the famed U.S. Department of Agriculture’s experiment station in Beltsville, Md.

More information about his life and career are available online in the News & Observer and the Phytotron site.