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Nathan Mantel Papers 1939-2002 (bulk 1941-1994)
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Biography

Biographical Note

Nathan Mantel (1919-2002) was an influential medical statistician who developed procedures that significantly enhanced the statistical analysis of clinical and health research data. Born in New York City, Mantel attended Stuyvesant High School before majoring in statistics at the City College of New York. Shortly after his 1939 graduation, he began seven years' work with the War Production Board, optimizing wartime factory output and analyzing medical research for the Army Air Force.

In 1947 he joined the biometry group at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), beginning a career as a biostatistician. While there he completed a Masters degree in statistics at American University in 1956 and impressed his colleagues as a statistician of unparalleled skills. According to his friend and co-worker, Samuel Greenhouse, "No one could match him in quickly identifying the information in the data related to the questions and the swiftness with which he was able to choose an optimum method of analysis."

Among the analytical approaches that bear his name, the Mantel-Haenszel procedure (1959) is a simple and useful tool to obtain estimates of association, adjusted for the effect of one or more data sources and confounding factors (the effect of an extraneous variable that wholly or partially accounts for the apparent effect of the study exposure, or that masks an underlying true association). It was developed for Haenszel's studies of the connection between smoking and lung cancer. The method provides a summary estimate of exposure effect stratified by different studies or factors such as age and gender. It is equally effective in retrospective or forward studies.

In 1961 Mantel and W.R. Bryan developed a "safety" test (Mantel-Bryan Method) for calculating an agent's carcinogenicity by measuring against a definition of a "virtual safe" dosage: a risk of one per 100 million or less. Beyond these two examples, Mantel's career in biostatistics enhanced the diagnostic interpretations of research and epidemiological data.

Upon his retirement from NCI in 1974, Mantel joined George Washington University's Biostatistics Center as a research professor and freelanced as a consultant to various organizations allied with his personal environmental concerns. His professional stature and skill at analyzing the health risk of chemical substances often led to his providing expert witness testimony supporting the restriction of hazardous material. He continued teaching and consulting during his association with American University between 1982 until the 1990s.

Mantel was a prominent member of several international statistical bodies, including the American Statistical Association, the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, and the Royal Statistical Society. Active in the development of statistical theory and practice, Mantel wrote in excess of 380 professional articles.