Obituaries

Fred Mosteller

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.333.7564.399 (Published 17 August 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:399

Statistician who set the standards for medical evidence

The statistician Fred Mosteller did much to assess the effectiveness of treatments and contributed greatly to substantive understandings of what works to improve health. He was a pioneer in meta-analysis and systematic reviewing techniques. In a classic study he compared the results of cumulative meta-analyses of randomised clinical trials of treatment for myocardial infarction with the advice being offered in medical textbooks. The results were sobering.


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In the early 1990s, Mosteller avidly encouraged the development of the Cochrane Collaboration, which disseminates information about the effects of health care (http://www.cochrane.org/). Sir Iain Chalmers, editor of the James Lind Library, which aims to help people understand fair tests of treatments, said, “I owe him a lot. I think that the most important piece of research that Fred did in medicine was co-conceived with Tom Chalmers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They compared what …

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