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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Retired NCI Biostatistician Gart Is Mourned

Dr. John Jacob Gart

Dr. John Jacob Gart

Dr. John Jacob Gart, a mathematical statistician at the National Cancer Institute from 1965 to 1991 died on Jan. 24 at age 90. 

Born in Chicago in 1931, Gart graduated summa cum laude in 1953 with a bachelor of science degree from DePaul University. He earned an M.S. at Marquette University in 1955 and his Ph.D. in 1958 at Virginia Tech. He was a fellow at Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University and a visiting research fellow at the University of London, before joining NCI in the Biometry Branch in 1965.

From 1967 until his retirement in 1991, Gart served as chief of NCI’s mathematical statistics and applied mathematics section. The section developed novel statistical methods for problems arising in a variety of areas of medical and biological research and provided statistical consultation services to NCI investigators involved in laboratory and epidemiologic research. 

Former NCI colleague Dr. Robert Tarone noted that Gart’s numerous published papers demonstrate both his many important methodological contributions, particularly in the area of the statistical analysis of categorical data, and also the wide range of areas of biomedical research in which he provided skilled consultation.  

Gart was one of the world’s foremost experts in the statistical analysis of categorical data, particularly in the development of methods that were appropriate and accurate for data from experiments with small sample sizes. Importantly, he also published papers providing code for computer programs that allowed his methods to be implemented by a wide range of researchers.

Tarone noted that as section chief, “John demanded the same level of rigor and effort be given to statistical consulting efforts as was given to the application of statistical theory in method development. He was generous with his time—both with regard to technical or theoretical problems arising in method development and with regard to issues arising in statistical consultations. He was an outstanding mentor to the section staff, assisting both with technical scientific aspects of consulting efforts, and when needed, with advice on handling rare difficult interactions arising with consulting clients. He was an exceptional leader, and his leadership style allowed staff to become strong and independent in both method development and in providing effective statistical consultation services throughout the NCI.”

A member of the International Statistical Institute, Gart received numerous honors and accolades throughout his career, including an NIH Special Achievement Award. He received a North Atlantic Treaty Organization postdoctoral fellowship, served as an advisor to the World Health Organization and was an associate editor for the American Statistician. 

The excellence of Gart’s research career is attested to by the number of professional organizations that made him an honorary fellow, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Statistical Association, the Royal Statistical Society, the Institute for Mathematical Statistics and the Biometric Society. 

Gart’s survivors include his wife of 60 years, Sheila Gart of Chevy Chase, Md.; sons Matthew Gart of Salem, Va., and Thomas Gart of West Orange, N.J.; daughters Jacqueline Griffin of Truckee Calif., and Rebecca Bowers of Olney, Md.; 10 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.  

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