Henry Albright Mattill was born in Glasgow, Missouri. He received his B.A. from Western Reserve University in 1906 and his Ph.D. in physiological chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1910. For the next 5 years he taught physiology and physiological chemistry at the University of Utah. He then moved to the University of California, Berkeley where he taught nutrition until 1918. Mattill became professor of biochemistry in the Department of Vital Economics at the University of Rochester in 1919. He advanced to professor of biochemistry and head of the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Iowa in 1927, where he remained until his death. Mattill's early work was concerned with the effects of prolonged fasting on nitrogen partition and of variations in water intake on the utilization of foods. He subsequently observed that rats failed to reproduce when maintained on a diet in which proteins and vitamins were solely supplied by whole milk powder. This finding led to his establishment of vitamin E as a reproductive factor and his discovery that the vitamin itself was an antioxidant. Later, Mattill's research turned to the metabolic functions of vitamin E in muscle.
For many years Mattill edited a section of Biological Abstracts. He was a member of the editorial boards of the Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, the Journal of Nutrition, and Physiological Reviews. He served the American Society of Biological Chemists as secretary, a member of the Council, chairman of the Editorial Committee, and finally, as its president, in 1952. Mattill received the Iowa Award of the American Chemical Society (1950) and was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Science by Western Reserve University (1952).