MIT professor’s book digs into the eclectic, textually linked reading choices of people in medieval London.
Professor Merrie G. Klapp, whose intellectual interests spanned the fields of architecture, mechanical engineering, semiotics, communications, environmental policy and political science, died December 9 of brain cancer. Professor Klapp, 41, was a research affiliate and former associate professor in urban studies and planning.
"I remember Merrie for her mind that posed probing questions, for her work that bridged different academic disciplines, for her great interest in those around her, and for her enormous courage," said Professor Peter J. Katzenstein of Cornell University, who edited one of her books.
A native of San Diego, Professor Klapp received the bachelor's degree in architecture from Stanford University in 1971, having studied also at the University of Beirut and Vassar College. She completed her MS degree in mechanical engineering at Stanford in 1973.
During this time she traveled to Italy where she met Professor Umberto Eco, the renowned semiotician and author with whom she collaborated on a semiotic approach to intercultural communication in Europe. Their work produced several articles including one on a new notion of "territoriality" in the social meaning attributed to urban space.
Enrolling for doctoral study at the University of California at Berkeley in 1974, Professor Klapp was inspired by political science professor Ernst Haas to direct her interest to an analysis of international organizations. She traveled around the world in 1978 collecting data on the Law of the Sea and completed her PhD in 1980 under Professor Haas and Professors Melvin Webber and Michael Teitz of UC's Department of City and Regional Planning.
In 1981-82 Professor Klapp was a research fellow at both the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and MIT's Center for International Studies. She was appointed assistant professor of urban studies and planning in 1982 and became associate professor in 1989.
Initially her research at MIT focused on the role of government in natural resources policy, resulting in several articles and the book The Sovereign Entrepreneur, published as part of the Cornell Series in Political Economy edited by Professor Katzenstein, Walter S. Carpenter Jr. Professor of International Studies.
Later at the direction of her department she turned her attention to the political aspects of environmental policy and, even while struggling with cancer, produced numerous articles and the book, Bargaining with Uncertainty, to be published this month by Auburn House Press of the Greenwood Publishing Group.
Last year as a research scholar at the Institute for International Studies at Berkeley Professor Klapp began research for a book on the Italian textile industry, to introduce regional, as opposed to national, governments as a critical element in international industrial theory. Despite her illness she made three trips to Italy and conducted more than 60 interviews for the book. She left an outline of her proposal but the book itself was never written.
Professor Klapp is survived by her husband, Professor Sy D. Friedman of mathematics at MIT; her parents, Professor Emeritus Orrin E. Klapp and Evelyn G. Klapp of San Diego, and a brother, Curtis Klapp of Seoul, Korea. Memorial contributions may be sent to the Neurology Fund, Mount Auburn Hospital, 330 Mount Auburn St., Cambridge 02138.
A version of this article appeared in the January 8, 1992 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 36, Number 16).