More "Murphy"

Jim Rader jrader at M-W.COM
Tue Jun 8 09:32:59 UTC 1999

A footnote to Barry's note: I've searched the Jan 6-8 issues of the
NY Times for references to the supposed press conference.  Nothing.
John Paul Stapp is not even in the NY Times index for 1950.
_Reader's Guide_ turned up only one reference to Stapp for the year,
an article in the Feb. 6, 1950, issue of _Newsweek_ that discussed
"Operation Grand Slam," as the deceleration project, technically Air
Force Project MX981, was called; the article contained general
information--nothing on wrongly wired transducers or Murphy's Law.

According to the excerpt from _Desert Wings_ (March 3, 1978) at the
Edwards Air Force Base website, "Aerospace manufacturers picked it
[Murphy's Law] up and used it widely in their ads during the next few
months [after the press conference], and soon it was being quoted in
many news and magazine articles."  I really doubt it.

For the lexicographical record:  yesterday I spoke with Edward A.
Murphy III, who sent a letter to _Scientific American_ in 1997 that Barry
mentioned in an earlier post.  According to Murphy III, his father,
Edward A. Murphy, Jr., was born in 1918 and died in 1990.  (So the
1917 birth date in C10 is inaccurate.)  The eponymous Murphy was not
a self-promoter and whatever papers he left are not likely to be a
source for early cites of <Murphy's Law>.

Is there a chance that Edward A. Murphy, Jr., was not the source of
Murphy's Law and the whole Murphy story is an elaborate hoax?
Very unlikely, though the repeated story about the Stapp/Nichols
promulgation of <Murphy's Law> is certainly flawed, or it wouldn't be
so hard to document.

Jim Rader

> MURPHY'S LAW (continued)
>    Nothing is ever easy.
>    Some checking was done for the 5 January 1950 alleged date for the John
> Paul Stapp news conference.  Nothing comes up in the LOS ANGELES TIMES,
>    I checked to see who else has DESERT WINGS.  RLIN states that the Library
> of Congress has it, but the LOC's entry clearly states it does NOT have it.
> The State Historical Society of Wisconsin has DESERT WINGS on microfilm, but
> only from 1983.
>    WorldCat turned up the LA County Library, Kern County (CA) Library, the US
> Army Military History Institute in Carlisle, PA, and the Pennsylvania
> Newspaper Project in Harrisburg.  I called both PA places.  Harrisburg
> doesn't have it and is a bad OCLC entry.  The MHI is open to the public
> Mon-Fri 7:45 a.m.-4:30 p.m.  It doesn't have 1951 and is missing Dec
> 1952-March 1953, but otherwise has it.
>    Carlisle, PA is about three hours away...

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