JP Stapp 1956 "Murphy's Law," no coining claim

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Fri Nov 6 11:49:50 UTC 2009

Additional circumstantial evidence of the late and unreliable nature of the
claim that "Murphy's Law" was coined at Murdoc (later Edwards) Air Force Base
in late 1949 comes in New Mexico Magazine, Dec. 1956, p.61, part of "Fastest
Man on Earth" by Steve Lowell, pages 22-23 and 60-61.

Lt. Col. John Paul Stapp is quoted a length, but gives no hint of any claim of
being in on naming the "law."

Page 61:
..."Risk? Any combat pilot has all the unknown risks. For these test rides we
had everything worked out. In 29 rides, I was never shot at!
"Besides, we operated by the first law of missile research--Murphy's Law--if
anything can go wrong, it will! So we were awfully careful.
"And, in those tests, as long as the subject walked away after they were over,
they were successful!"

This is in addition to the negative evidence gathered by Barry Popik, Gerald
Cohen, Fred Shapiro (in Yale Alumni News), David Wilton, and others. And Howard
Percy "Bob" Robertson (as detailed in the list archive) used "Murphy's Law"
earlier than the Murdoc scenario, in any case.

Stephen Goranson

The American Dialect Society -

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