Date: Thu, 2 Oct 1997 02:14:11 -0400
From: "Barry A. Popik" Bapopik[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
Subject: "Murphy's Law" and aviation oral history
BRIEF RESEARCH SUMMARY:
FIRST STAGE: Earlier this year, Eddie Murphy starred in the forgettable
movie METRO. An AOL board for Cecil Adams ("The Straight Dope") discussed
Murphy's Law. I found the 1957 MURPHY'S LAW Navy training film with a
Worldcat search, and I posted the findings on ADS-L. I also checked science
fiction titles, but the earliest "Murphy's Law" short story title was in
AMAZING SCIENCE FACT, SCIENCE FICTION, in 1958.
SECOND STAGE: This month, I checked the entries in two newly published
books--RHHDAS H-O and Hugh Rawson's UNWRITTEN LAWS: THE UNOFFICIAL RULES
LIFE AS HANDED DOWN BY MURPHY AND OTHER SAGES. I also checked the
publications Aviation Week, Aviation Age, Aviation Mechanics Bulletin, and
Approach, as well as relevant entries in the Readers' Guide to Periodical
Literature and The New York Times Index.
REMAINING PROBLEMS: The main problem is that Murphy (if there is a real
Murphy) has never come forward. Why not? Is Murphy still alive? Can we
talk to him if he is??
The other problem is that "Murphy's Law" allegedly started in 1949, but
the first citation is in 1955. George Nichols, chief of the Northrop crew,
explained (in the late 1970s) that Lt. Col. John P. Stapp had used "Murphy's
Law" in a press conference. I found no such quotation in any Readers' Guide
It's important to nail "Murphy's Law" down because (1) it's a widely
used Americanism, (2) we probably CAN nail it down, (3) the people involved
might still be alive, and (4) it was my father's favorite phrase.