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Merle Lawrence ’38 *41

Published in Apr. 18, 2007, issue

The class lost a distinguished member with Merle's death from heart failure Jan. 29, 2007. He was 91.

Merle graduated from the Peddie School. He earned a bachelor's in biology and stayed on at Princeton to earn a Ph.D. in psychology.

Merle was commissioned as a naval aviator in 1942 and served in the South Pacific. He was wounded and later was awarded the Silver Star, Purple Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross, and Air Medal. As one of the first naval helicopter pilots he was instrumental in developing devices for helicopter rescue work. He also published research on human factors in engineering design. In August 1942 Merle married Bobbie Harper, sister of Brud Harper '39.

Following his discharge, Merle returned to Princeton as an assistant professor, conducting research on human behavior and hearing. His pioneering work on acoustics, measurements of hearing ability, and ear function led to his career at the University of Michgan Medical School. He established the Kresge Hearing Research Institute there, and served as its director until his retirement in 1983.

In retirement, Merle and Bobbie excelled in competitive swimming at a national level.

Merle is survived by Bobbie, their three children, five grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. To them, the class extends heartfelt sympathy and recognizes a remarkable career and a life well and fully lived.

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