Newcomb went with 19 in the United States and taught himself skills in higher mathematics and astronomy at. In 1858, he earned a degree at the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University.
In 1861 he was an astronomer and professor of mathematics at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, DC., Where he worked on theories of planetary motion and the determination of the positions of the planets as a navigation aid.
During a stay at the Paris Observatory in 1870 he was able to improve Peter Andreas Hansen's calculations of the lunar orbit.
In 1877, Newcomb Director of the Nautical Almanac Office, 1884 also professor of mathematics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University. His were made during this time, recalculated by the ephemeris were declared at a conference in May 1896 in Paris, the international standard.
From 1878 on he ran, first in collaboration and in competition with Albert Abraham Michelson, a project for a more precise measurement of the speed of light.
1881 he noticed that in the logarithmic tables, the front pages were more worn than the rear. From this he deduced the theory that in a list of randomly compiled figures which will one come first more often than any other number. Later, this principle was named after Frank Benford Benfordsches law.
In 1874 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. In 1876 he became a corresponding member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. From France he was in 1893 appointed Knight of the Legion of Honour. In 1908 he gave a plenary lecture at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Rome (La théorie du mouvement de la lune: son histoire et son état actuel ).
The lunar crater Newcomb and Mars crater Newcomb are named after him.
- Popular Astronomy. German output increased edited by Rudolph Engelmann. "Published by Wilhelm Engelmann, Leipzig, 1881