Barkev Sanders was born Barkev Sandragortzian in Tagh, Shatach, Turkey to an Armenian family on July 2, 1903. His father was a teacher and a Protestant minister. Shortly after his birth, Sanders was taken to the city of Van, where he spent most of his childhood. In 1915, during the Turkish persecution of Armenians, Sanders and his family fled Turkey and relocated to Alkamar, Russian Armenia, where, also in 1915, both of his parents and two of his brothers died. Following his sojourn as a refugee in Russian Armenia, he emigrated to the United States, where he changed his surname to Sanders.
In 1923, Sanders entered Bridgewater State Teachers' College, in Massachusetts, where he received a Bachelor's degree in education. In 1926, he entered Columbia University, where he earned both a Master's degree in social psychology (1927) and a Ph.D. in sociology and statistics (1929). In 1940, Sanders also received a Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University, following his 1939 admission to the District of Columbia Bar. He was also a Fellow of Columbia University (1928-1929) and a Research Fellow of the Brookings Institution (1930-1931).
Sanders' professional life was as wide ranging as his academic background. In 1929, as a medical statistician for the Veterans' Administration (VA), he completed a study of expected rates of hospitalization for mental diseases among ex-servicemen, which was used as the basis of VA hospital construction plans prior to World War II.
In 1930, Sanders served as a research consultant for the White House Conference on Child Health and Development. In this capacity, Sanders provided a quantitative demonstration of the influence of environment on physical growth and development.
During 1931 and 1932, Sanders worked as a statistician for the Committee to Study Automobile Accident Compensation, which was sponsored by the Columbia University Research Council on Social Sciences. This study provided the foundation for the concept of no-fault auto insurance.
From 1932 to 1935, Sanders was employed by the U.S. Public Health Service, first as a medical statistician (1932-1933), in which capacity he studied addicts and other mental deviants, then as a psychologist (1933-1935), in which capacity he developed psychological and aptitude tests. During 1934, on loan from the U.S. Public Health Service, Sanders served as a research supervisor for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. In this position, Sanders developed a study, which was later conducted, on white collar job opportunities for blacks in America.
From 1935 to 1937, Sanders worked for the U.S. Department of Justice as technical director of the Attorney General's Survey on Release Procedures, which was published in 1938. In 1937, Sanders moved to the Bureau of Research and Statistics Social Security Board, where he served as Section Chief of the Division of Health Studies. In this position, Sanders developed and conducted a study on American family composition, which was the basis of the 1939 amendments to the Social Security Act.
In 1939, Sanders became Chief of the Division of Health and Disability Studies within the Social Security Administration, where he designed and conducted studies that formed the basis of plans to protect families from the economic consequences of ill health. While in this position, Sanders also expanded his activities within the Social Security Administration to include in-service training lectures on the topic of illness as a cause of economic insecurity.
During 1947, the Social Security Administration loaned Sanders to the Social Security Mission to Japan. As a member of the Mission, Sanders advised General Douglas MacArthur on the design and development of a social insurance system for post-World War II Japan. The Mission's recommendations were accepted and put into operation.
In 1948, Sanders became a consultant on disabilty for the Social Security Administration's Division of Research and Statistics. In this position, Sanders helped states develop their own temporary disability insurance programs, as well as working with the Bureau of Old Age and Survivors' Insurance for amendments to the Social Security Act and a program for permanent and total disability insurance.
From 1950 to 1955, Sanders served as a research consultant with the Bureau of Old Age and Survivors' Insurance. In this position, Sanders continued his work on a permanent and total disability insurance program, which was enacted into law in 1954.
During this same period, Sanders also taught college level courses on a part time basis. At the Graduate School of the American Univerity (1948-1958), Sanders taught "Social and Economic Aspects of Health" and "Research Methods in Medical Care." Sanders also taught statistics courses at the Catholic University of America (1951-1959) and "Medical Economics" at the Johns Hopkins University (1952-1958). Sanders was also principal investigator/consultant for two studies at George Washington University. One study (1954-1970) was on patent utlization. The other study (1956-1957) examined the attitudes of American inventors toward defense inventions. In addition, in 1957, Sanders became a member of the editorial committee for the "Patent, Trademark and Copyright Journal of Research and Education" at George Washington University. He held this post until 1970. Sanders later served as a consultant and member of the board of the Foundation for Institutes of Research and Advanced Studies from 1969 to 1975.
From 1955 to 1956, Sanders worked as a research consultant for the Social Security Administration's Bureau of Old Age and Survivors' Insurance in its Division of Disability Operations. Also during 1955 and 1956, Sanders served as a research analyst for the President's Commission on Veterans' Pensions. The commission's findings were presented to Congress.
In 1956, Sanders transferred to the U.S. Public Health Service out of frustration with the Social Security Administration's use of what he claimed were unrealistic cost estimates in the disability insurance program he had played so important a role in developing. His new job in the Public Health Service was research consultant with the Division of General Health Services.
In 1960, while still employed by the Public Health Service, Sanders began working as a consultant for the United Mine Workers of America Welfare and Retirement Fund. Sanders advised the director of the the fund in respect to policies, plans, and prospective costs for the health care of the fund's beneficiaries. He held this position until 1974. Sanders also did similar consulting work for the Health Care Services of the Texas Hospital Association of Trinity University from 1970 to 1972.
In 1964, while on a month's leave from the Public Health Service, Sanders first went public with his criticisms of the U.S. government's use of what he considered to be misleading statistics. For the American Medical Association, Sanders prepared a critique of a government publication, which claimed that the high rejection rate by the U.S. Selective Service was attributable to inadequate health care. In his critique, Sanders purported to demonstrate that the government's thesis and method of approach were inappropriate and invalid.
Also in 1964, Sanders published an article in "Nation's Business," which criticized the Social Security Administration for the use of cost estimates, which he considered to be unrealistic. Within a month after the publication of this article, Sanders retired from the U.S. Public Health Service, which he also considered to be guilty of using unrealistic cost estimates. Disgusted and frustrated by his experiences with the federal bureaucracy, Sanders never again worked for the U.S. government except as a part time consultant to the U.S. Budget Bureau during 1965 and 1966.
In 1964, Sanders was contracted by the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh to work as an actuarial consultant on an Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) study on the health of atomic energy workers in relation to radiation exposures received. Formally, the study's principal investigator was Dr. Thomas Mancuso, of the University of Pittsburgh. Nevertheless, Sanders, as the study's statistician, designed and conducted the research.
In 1971, Sanders, along with Mancuso and health physicist Allen Brodsky, the study's other co-investigator, presented preliminary findings, which showed no significant differences in mortality between Hanford atomic workers and limited matched worker control groups. Following this presentation, Sanders carried out far more detailed research on atomic worker mortality with larger control populations and greater details in regard to radiation exposure. As in the preliminary run, Sanders was able to find no evidence of mortality differences that could be attributed to low level radiation.
Mancuso, however, became convinced that low level radiation could constitute a cancer risk, following a 1974 study by Washington State health researcher Samuel Milham, which suggested that Hanford workers suffered from disproportionately high rates of cancer. In 1976, Sanders, however, began circulating a paper without Mancuso's approval, which, based on his own research, suggested there was no link between low level radiation and cancer.
The relationship between Mancuso and Sanders rapidly deteriorated. Within months, Mancuso fired Sanders and replaced him with two British researchers, Dr. Alice Stewart and George Kneale, her statistician, both of the University of Birmingham. Stewart and Kneale then subjected Sanders' data to retrospective analyses, which included only those workers dying of certain diseases, instead of the entire base population in Sanders' original design. From these analyses, Mancuso, Stewart, and Kneale concluded that there was a link between low level radiation and cancer. Their findings were published in 1977.
Sanders loudly protested what he considered to be a twisting of his research by Mancuso, Stewart, and Kneale. Indeed, many members of the scientific community backed up Sanders' claims that Stewart's and Kneale's analyses were not legitimate. In turn, Mancuso's reputation as a scientist suffered as a result of the controversy. When, in 1977, the AEC's successor, the Energy Research and Development Agency, removed the health and mortality study from Mancuso's control and transferred it to the Oak Ridge National Laboratories, in Tennessee, Mancuso accused the federal government and the nuclear industry of conspiring to suppress his finding that low level radiation was linked to cancer.
In the wake of this controversy, Sanders abandoned research and returned to his home in the San Diego area, where he had lived since 1969 when he relocated from Bethesda, Maryland. In 1977, he received a broker's license and worked as a real estate investment counselor as late as 1990. As of this writing, Sanders is living in La Jolla, California with his wife, the former Bessie Gruber, with whom he fathered two children.
The Barkev Sanders Papers primarily consist of Sanders' professional papers and records of the Hanford mortality study in which he was involved from 1964 to 1976. There are also a much smaller number of miscellaneous papers related to other aspects of Sanders' life and career, including his involvement with the Social Security Mission of Japan, the United States Social Security Administration, real estate, and personal material related to his retirement years.
Series One is General Correspondence. This series includes mostly professional correspondence sent or received by Barkev Sanders between 1951 and 1990. Major correspondents include A.F. Becher, Chief - AEC Safety Office, Oak Ridge, Tennessee (1969-76); Allen Brodsky, co-investigator in AEC Hanford mortality study (1966-90); Lynn F. Denton, Union Carbide Nuclear Division, Oak Ridge, Tennessee (1973-76); Robert C. Elston, Professor - School of Biostatistics, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (1971-76); William E. Hanna, Director - U.S. Social Security Administration Bureau of Processing and Accounts (1968-75); Clever W. Kirklin, Professional Research and Support Services Manager - Hanford Environmental Health Foundation (1969-77); Thomas F. Mancuso, chief investigator in AEC Hanford mortality study (1966-78); Stephen S.T. Sefcik, Programmer - Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh (1973-76); and Ron Vergona, Programmer - Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh (1974-75).
Series Two is the General File, which primarily consists of material related to the AEC Hanford mortality study, although it also includes a much smaller amount of material related to the Social Security Mission of Japan, the U.S. Social Security Administration, real estate, and personal material from Sanders' retirement years.
Restrictions on Access :
This collection is open for research use.Preferred Citation :
[Item Description]. Cage 623, Barkev Sanders Papers . Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.
Series One (boxes 1-4) is arranged alphabetically by the surname of each correspondent. When there is more than one letter or postcard from or to a single correspondent, that correspondence is arranged in chronological order. In the rare instances where there is no known surname for a correspondent, the correspondence is filed according to the first letter of the correspondent's first name in accord with the alphabetical organization of the series.
Series Two (boxes 5-16), is organized alphabetically by subject.
Detailed Description of the Collection
The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in the online catalog. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.