Date: Mon, 18 Dec 1995 08:55:10 CDT
From: Randy Roberts robertsr[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]EXT.MISSOURI.EDU
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
University of Missouri-Columbia
robertsr[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]ext.missouri.edu