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UC Berkeley Press Release

Martin Landau, expert on organization theory and Hong Kong Project founder, dies at 83

– University of California, Berkeley, professor of political science Martin Landau died of cancer on Dec. 27, 2004 at the age of 83. He was known for applying the concept of redundancy from the design of information systems to the study of public organizations and showing that duplication -- rather than streamlining -- of important functions increased reliability.

Landau also was known for his contributions to the philosophy of social science and the theory of public management and large-scale organization.

He also was recognized for founding the Hong Kong Project that trained senior level public managers from Hong Kong to apply concepts of organizational theory to practical administrative decision-making and problem-solving. Over 17 years, more than 100 professionals participated in the program that was financed by the Hong Kong government and based at UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies and later at the campus's Goldman School of Public Policy.

Bureaucratic organizations tend to make rote decisions, without reviewing approaches from new perspectives, said Claudia Archer, who worked with Landau as assistant director of the Hong Kong Project. The project challenged its scholars with a rigorous curriculum aimed at expanding their "repertoire of organizational response," she said.

"He was a great guy and just brilliant," Archer said.

The first group of Hong Kong Project's visiting scholars arrived in Berkeley in 1986 as Hong Kong was preparing for handover to China. "Through the program, we gained intellectual capital about a more politically charged form of governance (so unlike the executive-led milieu in Hong Kong then)," said project alumnus Anthony Tong. "We were more articulate, more focused on world issues and more sensitive about alternative cultures."

UC Berkeley Professor Todd LaPorte, who worked with Landau in the same field of public organization, recalled Landau's mental acuteness and legendary teaching skills. "He served as kind of a beacon for those of us who shared his enthusiasm for intellectual exchange in the classroom," LaPorte said.

Landau also served as a consultant on organizational design in the United States, Thailand, the Philippines, Nepal, Italy, France and elsewhere, said his daughter, Madeline Landau, a political anthropologist. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, named a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and a senior fellow at the National Academy of Public Administration. He also received the Danforth Foundation Habison Awards for distinguished teaching and scholarship, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Paris.

The son of a Brooklyn shopkeeper, Landau sparred in neighborhood boxing clubs as a boy and dreamed of becoming a professional boxer, his daughter said. Yet, his interests in politics, a positive role for government, the labor movement and civil rights led him to earn a B.A. in political science from Brooklyn College and a Ph.D. in political science from New York University, she said.

"He was the most egalitarian spirit I've ever met," she said, adding that he lent personal support to women, students of color, and others from a diversity of backgrounds.

Martin Landau's early education was interrupted by World War II. He served with the U.S. Army Signal Corps, earning several medals for valor. Landau's wartime service was spent in Germany, where he witnessed the horrors of concentration camps.

While deeply affected by those experiences, Madeline Landau said, her father was always "a profound humanist who opposed all forms of tyranny. He had a lifetime commitment to freedom and social justice."

After the war, Landau taught at Lincoln University, Brooklyn College and the City University of New York before coming to UC Berkeley in 1971. He retired in 1991.

Friends recalled Landau's longtime support for the labor and civil rights movements and his keen sense of humor and storytelling ability, as well as his love of opera and fine wine.

Landau died at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley. He is survived by his wife, Bernice (Bobbie); and daughters, Claudia and Madeline Landau, all of Berkeley; brothers, Gerry Landau of Lexington, Mass., and Herbert Landau of Boynton Beach, Fla.; and a sister, Bernice Golden of Suffern, N.Y.

Donations may be made to the Martin Landau Center on Organizational and Social Change. More details are available by calling (510) 642-7884.