Jerome Cornfield, 67, professor of statistics and director of the Biostatistics Center at George Washington University since 1972, died of cancer Monday at George Washington University Hospital.
He was an authority in the application of statistical and mathematical methods in dealing with questions in the fields of both economics and health.
Mr. Cornfield came to Washington in 1935 and joined the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics. During his 13 years with the bureau he did work in the improvement of probability sampling and in statistical analysis, and helped revise the Consumer Price Index during the late 1940s.
He was named assistant chief of the Biometrics Section of the National Cancer Institute in 1948. He became assistant chief of the Biometrics Research Branch of the National Health Institute in 1960, and then chief three years later, a post he held until retiring from the government in 1967.
While working with the National Heart Institute and the National Cancer Institute, both of which are components of the National Institutes of Health, Mr. Cornfield worked on data analysis procedures that would lead to a statistical method for estimating the risk of disease when several factors are involved.
An example of this would be a study he helped direct in the mid-1960s on heart disease, which led to a mathematical formula giving the odds on having a heart attack. Among the variables that must be considered, according to the study, are smoking, weight, serum cholesterol, age, and blood pressure.
Mr. Cornfield also worked on studies of epidemics, trials of the Salk polio vaccine, and drug safety. He was a consultant to the Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Veterans Administration.
He was president of the American Statistical Association in 1974, the American Epidemiologic Society in 1972, and the Eastern North American Region of the International Biometrics Society. He served as vice president of the American Heart Association in 1970.
Mr. Cornfield received the Department of Health Education and Welfare's Superior Service Award in 1967 and the NIH's Director's Award in 1978, and has been named Outstanding Statistician of the year by the Chicago chapter of the American Statistical Association in 1975.
He was a native of New York City and a 1933 graduate of New York University. He also attended the Department of Agriculture's Graduate School.
After retiring from the government, he taught at the University of Pittsburgh before joining the faculty at George Washington University.
He is survived by his wife, Ruth, of the home in Great Falls, Va.; two daughters, Ann Kaplan, of Boulder, Colo., and Ellen Cornfield of New York City; a sister, Selma Ganz, of Boston, Mass., and one grandchild.
The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Jerome Cornfield Memorial Fund at George Washington University. Funds will be used for the benefit of graduate students in statistics.