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Nathan Mantel Papers

Identifier: MS C 610


Correspondence, reprints, drafts, statistical data, reports, and testimony document Nathan Mantel's career as a medical statistician with the National Cancer Institute, George Washington University, American University, and freelance consultant.


  • 1939-2002 (bulk 1941-1994)


40.84 Linear Feet (38 boxes)

Physical Location

Materials stored onsite. History of Medicine Division. National Library of Medicine

Language of Materials

Collection materials primarily in English

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access.

Copyright and Re-use Information

Donor's copyrights were transferred to the public domain. Archival collections often contain mixed copyrights; while NLM is the owner of the physical items, permission to examine collection materials is not an authorization to publish. These materials are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. It is the user's responsibility to research and understand any applicable copyright and re-publication rights not allowed by fair use. NLM does not grant permissions to publish.

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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.

Collection Summary

Correspondence, reprints, drafts, statistical data, reports, and legal testimonies document Nathan Mantel's career as a medical statistician with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and later as a professor at George Washington University and American University. He worked primarily in area of analyzing the health effects of drugs, chemicals, and environmental conditions. The bulk of the collection primarily consists of subject files and analytic data reports from NCI, GWU, and his consulting practice.

Series 1, Personal and Biographical, holds primarily personal correspondence and a set of CVs and resumes. Brief autobiographical information is provided by some anecdotal notes and a description of Mantel's experiences with the War Production Board before joining NCI. The Miscellaneous Information folder contains obituaries, biographical articles, and his last will and testament. Included also are Mantel's thesis proposal and thesis for the master's degree he earned at American University in 1956. Personnel records in Series II include positions descriptions and performance plans.

Series 2, National Cancer Institute, consists primarily of correspondence and subject files, the substance of which often concerns dialogues between Mantel and internationally-based colleagues on the development and interpretation of statistical models and methods. NCI administrative records contained in the collection are most complete in the form of Mantel's travel documents and his personnel records. NCI meeting minutes, appointment calendars, telephone messages, and other information are fragmentary. Files representing Mantel's participation in professional conferences and meetings are often limited to programs and schedules. The Notes and Data subseries are analytical records largely without contextual documentation or date.

Series 3, University of Pittsburgh, is a small series representing Mantel's teaching during the end of his time at NCI. It consists of very sparse correspondence and some undated lectures, test questions, and coursework.

Series 4, George Washington University, consists primarily of correspondence and subject files. Smaller subseries document grant funding which supported Mantel's position at GWU, notes and data that mostly lack description, and information about conferences that Mantel attended. His teaching is represented by a few lecture topics.

Series 5, American University, is primarily general correspondence. Limited teaching, grant support, and administrative records are included.

Series 6, Consulting Work, contains correspondence, testimony, affidavits, reports, and printed information relating to his analytical work understanding the effects of drugs, chemicals, and environmental conditions on behalf of private industry, interest groups, and government agencies. Topics include pesticides, vaccines, airborne chemicals, effects of smoking, effects of alcohol, food additives, and medications. Arranged alphabetically by topic or substance, each subseries typically contains correspondence between Mantel and a corporate entity, background material on the substance in question, Mantel's reports, and sometimes his and others' legal testimony.

Series 7, Writings, is devoted mostly to Mantel's contributions to medical statistical literature. Arranged between seemingly unpublished articles and articles arranged according to Mantel's numbered bibliography, many of the files contain not only reprint versions but also preliminary drafts and correspondence between Mantel, his co-authors, and publishers. Smaller subseries contain collected writings by others which address Mantel's work or which have been signed by their authors.


Correspondence, reprints, drafts, statistical data, reports, and testimony document Nathan Mantel's career as a medical statistician with the National Cancer Institute, George Washington University, American University, and freelance consultant.

Physical Location

Materials stored onsite. History of Medicine Division. National Library of Medicine


Gift, Nathan Mantel, August 19, 1994. Accession #794.


Processed by
Jim Labosier
Processing Completed
March 2015
Encoded by
Jim Labosier
Finding Aid to the Nathan Mantel Papers, 1939-2002 (bulk 1941-1994)
Unverified Partial Draft
Jim Labosier
March 2015
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English English
Edition statement

Collecting Area Details

Part of the Archives and Modern Manuscripts Collection Collecting Area

8600 Rockville Pike
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Bethesda MD 20894 US
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