Verification of 1911 "Murphy's Law" Proverb Citation

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Sat Dec 8 21:59:22 UTC 2007

So now we are left with the problem of how and why this came to be known as "Murphy's Law">


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Shapiro, Fred" <Fred.Shapiro at YALE.EDU>
Date: Saturday, December 8, 2007 7:49 am
Subject: Verification of 1911 "Murphy's Law" Proverb Citation

> I have now verified the 1911 occurrence of the "Murphy's Law" proverb
> from the original book:
> It is an experience common to all men to find that, on any special
> occasion, such as the production of a magical effect for the first
> time in public, everything that _can_ go wrong _will_ go wrong.
> Whether we must attribute this to the malignity of matter or to the
> total depravity of inanimate things, whether the exciting cause is
> hurry, worry or what not, the fact remains.
>      Nevil Maskelyne and David Devant, _Our Magic_ (1911), p. 110
> [this section of the book was written by Maskelyne]
> I have also looked at the original book of _Magic Made Easy_ by David
> Devant (1910), but do not see anything resembling Murphy's Law there.
> Fred Shapiro
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Fred R. Shapiro                                           Editor
> Associate Librarian for Collections and       YALE BOOK OF QUOTATIONS
>   Access and Lecturer in Legal Research    Yale University Press
> Yale Law School                                          ISBN 0300107986
> e-mail: fred.shapiro at
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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