"Murphy's law" 1951 and 1952

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Fri Jan 2 12:34:21 UTC 2009

A little more on the early "Murphy's law" texts.

Scientific American, September 1952 "The Amateur Scientist: About home-made
cloud chambers and the fine telescope of a Portugese navy officer," Conducted
by Albert G. Ingalls, pp. 179f.

p.181 col. 1
At this point enters the well-known 'first law of research'--sometimes called
'Murphy's law.' The law may be stated roughly as follows: 'If anything can go
wrong, it will.'
[This text is part of a report by I. [Isaac] Clyde Cornog, of the
Randal Morgan
Laboratory of Physics at U. Penn. So I.C. Cornog [U. Penn. PhD 1928] is, so
far, the earliest known named user of the collocation.]

p.182 col. 3
The department [at U. Penn.] has built several successful diffusion chambers
based on Dr. [I. Clyde] Cornog's description, but in every case only
after some
sharp tussles with Murphy's law.
[This text is by Ingalls.]

Genetic Psychology Monographs: Child Behavior, Animal Behavior, and
Comparative Psychology. May, 1951, Volume 43, Second Half
A Psychological Study of Physical Scientists, By Anne Roe, pp. 121-235
As for himself he realized that this was the inexorable working of the second
law of the thermodynamics which stated Murphy's law "If anything can go wrong
it will." I always liked Murphy's law, I was told that by an architect.
["that" is not necessarily "Murphy's law," but could refer to an earlier story
in this text about a different architect and about church statues, perhaps
vaguely reminiscent of A. Gaudi.]
[This text is part of a response by an unnamed theoretical physicist on being
shown a picture by the psychologist, Roe. Elsewhere in this publication there
is further biographical information about this individual, "TP [presumably,
Theoretical Physicist] 3." It may eventually be possibly to identify this
individual. For now, I'll note that there is another physicist named Cornog,
Robert Cornog [is he a younger brother of I.C. Cornog?]. There are, of course,
many people named Murphy. E.g. physicist Edgar J. Murphy [NYU PhD 1934],
presumably known to R. Cornog [UC Berkeley PhD 1940]; both worked on atomic
weapons. Another contemporary Murphy: psychologist Gardner Murphy.]

Stephen Goranson

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list