"Murphy's law" interview, likely early 1949

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Tue Jun 9 12:04:57 UTC 2009

As previously noted, a Murdoc/Edwards AFB "Murphy's Law" origin scenario was
said (by Nick T. Spark) to be dated (about) June or later, 1949.
The interview by Anne Roe with the theoretical physicist who is now identified
(thanks to American Philosophical Society archives) as Howard Percy "Bob"
Robertson apparently took place in early 1949, probably before the above
scenario. Roe wrote Robertson on Dec. 13, 1948, requesting an interview.
Robertson replied on Dec. 16, 1948 affirmatively and said she will find him at
her disposal in the next three months. So, probably, he spoke about Murphy's
law and said "I always liked Murphy's law" in early 1949.
This new information comes thanks to Shelley (Charlotte) Erwin, PhD, Senior
Archivist, California Institute of Technology.
Perhaps worth noting: Robertson's sometime mentor at U. of Washington and later
colleague at CalTech was E.T. Bell, also known to science fiction readers as
John Taine. Science fiction is one of the realms where the named "law" appeared
relatively early. Besides Taine, physicist George Moseley Murphy (who wrote
much on thermodynamics) is a potential namer or source.

Stephen Goranson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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