possible ID of "Murphy's Law" user in 1951/1949-50

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Mon Jan 12 11:41:46 UTC 2009

I may have identified the speaker of "Murphy's Law" in the 1951 publication
(below) that reported an interview in 1949 or 1950:
Horace Richard Crane (1907-2007), Physics Ph.D., Cal. Tech., 1934; Prof. at U.
Mich. at the time of the interview. If there's interest I'll describe the
criteria for the possible, I guess probable, identification. For now I note
that he, like I. C. Cornog, the 1952 user of "Murphy's Law" (below), was a

Stephen Goranson

Quoting Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu>:

> 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
> p.204
> 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.]

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