Dr. Vivian Eberle Spencer, 72, retired mineral economist with the federal government and a former American University professor, died of sepsis Sunday at her home in Boston.

For the last 10 years, she had divided her time between Washington and Boston and had been an adjunct professor of mathematics at the University of Connecticut.

Dr. Spencer came to Washington and joined the Census Bureau about 1940. She transferred to the Interior Department's Bureau of Mines in 1969 and retired from the government two years later.

During her years with the government, she worked on census studies of the minerals industry. During the administration of Harry S. Truman, she was a statistician on the President's Materials' Policy Committee. She also was the author of "Raw Materials in the United States," the latest edition of which appeared earlier this year.

Dr. Spencer taught courses in statistics and in mineral economics at American University from the 1950s to the mid-1960s.

She was a native of New Castle, Pa. She earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics and English and a master's degree in mathematics at Oberlin College, and a doctoral degree in mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania in 1936.

Before coming to Washington, Dr. Spencer had taught mathematics at the University of Pittsburg for four years and had worked for the federal government in Philadelphia.

Survivors include a sister, Dr. Domina Eberle Spencer of Boston.