More on "Murphy's Law"

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sun Jan 25 18:36:22 UTC 2004

>This is the relevant passage in the book: "Colonel Stapp's favorite
>takeoff on sober scientific laws - Murphy's Law, Stapp calls it -
>'Everything that can possibly go wrong will go wrong.'"
>The significance of this passage can be interpreted both as crucial
>support for the standard Nichols-Stapp-Murphy story of the origins of
>"Murphy's Law" and as crucial evidence against the standard story.
>On the one hand, this is, as far as I know, the first discovered pre-1976
>documentation linking the Law and any of the Edwards Air Force Base
>denizens.  On the other hand, the quote just given is all that Mallan has
>to say on the proverb.  Any proponent of the Nichols-Stapp-Murphy origin
>has to face the questions: if that story is accurate, wouldn't Mallan's
>sources have told him the details of the colorful yarn, and wouldn't
>Mallan have thought it was interesting enough to recount in his book?
>The answer, I believe, has to be "yes" on both counts.

I don't see it that way although I may not have the whole background. If
somebody refers to "Sod's Law", "Spode's Law", "O'Reilly's Law", or
whatever, most people will not immediately ask "Why is it named that?" any
more than they will when presented with, say, "Ohm's Law" (which I suppose
is credited to Ohm although I've never looked into it) or the "Wheatstone
bridge" (which is not credited to Wheatstone). Certainly I heard of
Murphy's Law a few dozen times over the decades, and I never asked the
question: I assumed it was named after somebody named Murphy (real or
imaginary), and which one didn't seem very interesting.

-- Doug Wilson

More information about the Ads-l mailing list