Date: Mon, 18 Dec 1995 08:55:10 CDT


Subject: Murphy's Law

I believe I missed some of the earlier posts on this term and so,

apologize if this is repetitive.

I think the 1958 citation which has been mentioned comes from The

Nation, volume 168, no. 23, June 7, 1958, pp. 505-506. The cite, in

part, states "There is an old military maxim known as Murphy's Law

which asserts that wherever there is a bolt to be turned, someday

there will be someone to turn it in the wrong way." The story

concerns a Nike Ajax missile which accidentally exploded in New Jersey

on May 22nd.

In 1978, columnist Charles McCabe, in the San Francisco Chronicle

wrote a column on Murphy's Law (March 16, page 53). Again quoting,

"Nichols says the expression was first used in 1949 at Edwards Air

Force Base. On the track at North Base there was Colonel J. P.

Stapp's experimental crash research testing. The actual work was

being done by Northrop Aircraft, and Nichols was Northrop's project

manager. The Law's namesake was Captain Ed Murphy, a development

engineer from Wright Field Aircraft Lab. Frustration with a strap

transducer which was malfunctioning due to an error in wiring the

strain gage bridges caused him to remark -- 'If there is any way to do

things wrong, he will' -- referring to the technician who had wired

the bridges at the lab. A couple of weeks after the naming Colonel

Stapp indicated at a press conference that our fine safety record

during several years of simulated crash force testing was the result

of a firm belief in Murphy's Law, and our consistent effort to deny

the inevitable. The widespread references to the Law in

manufacturers' ads within only a few months was fantastic -- and

Murphy's Law was off and running wild."

A 1978 issue (?) of Verbatim attributed Murphy's Law to Ireland.

Another author, Jim Russell, wrote a book in 1978 called Russell on

Murphy's Law, in which he supposedly traced the saying back to early


In Peter Tamony's files I did find one earlier cite. -- San

Francisco Chronicle, 17 June 1957, page 21. A column by Stanton

Delaplane titled "Postcard From England" A subheading reads "If

anything can go wrong, it will." -- Murphy's Law

Randy Roberts

University of Missouri-Columbia