Merle Lawrence, Ph.D., Professorship

Dr. Merle Lawrence
Dr. Merle Lawrence

A Pioneer in the Field

An eminent physiologist with a scientific career spanning more than 40 years, Dr. Merle Lawrence, PhD, (1915-2007) played a central and leading role in the establishment and growth of research in Otolaryngology.

Among his fellow scientists, Dr. Lawrence is intimately associated with inner ear physiology where, among other accomplishments, his research provided the first physiologic evidence that the origin of auditory distortion lies in the inner ear, not the middle ear. He also pioneered the study of cochlear vascular physiology and the regulation of blood flow at the level of the capillaries. His insights into the underlying physiology and his contacts with eminent clinicians of his time influenced the great advances in middle ear functional restoration and reconstruction, including the tympanoplasty and stapedectomy procedures.

Dr. Lawrence published extensively, writing well over a hundred research articles, book chapters and books. Weaver and Lawrence’s “Physiological Acoustics”, published in 1954, remained the authoritative work and mandatory reading for scientists and clinicians alike for decades. His work has aptly been recognized by his peers with awards and honors among them the Service Award of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology; Award of Merit of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology; Gold Medal Award of the American Otological Society; Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Academy of Audiology; and many others.

A Beloved Mentor and Teacher

In addition to his remarkable achievements as a researcher, Dr. Lawrence was also a dedicated and beloved teacher. Over the course of his more than 30-years at U-M, Dr. Lawrence not only trained graduate students and fellows but also was a mentor and esteemed colleague to otolaryngology residents and faculty in our department. Many of his trainees went on to become leaders in their fields, as department chairs, distinguished clinicians, or basic scientists.

Founding Director of the Kresge Hearing Research Institute

In 1960, the Regents of the University of Michigan formally established the Kresge Hearing Research Institute with Dr Lawrence as its first director. Under his leadership the Institute grew to become one of the largest and most influential centers for research on hearing and deafness worldwide. Until his retirement in 1983, Dr. Lawrence continued to conduct his groundbreaking research on inner physiology with an enormous and lasting impact on medicine.

Honoring His Legacy

If Dr. Lawrence affected your life through his innovative research, teaching, or friendship, please join us in establishing a fitting, and long overdue, tribute to his remarkable legacy: the Merle Lawrence, Ph.D., Collegiate Professorship in Otolaryngology. This professorship, with its research and teaching programs and its committed students, will provide a fundamental resource to the Institute that Dr. Lawrence founded and the field of otolaryngology. It will permit and encourage collaboration with gifted scientists throughout the world, facilitate development and support of new research strategies and provide the mechanism and source of essential clinician-scientists for otolaryngology. It will assure the world leadership position of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and the Kresge Hearing Research Institute in the years ahead.