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Murphy's Law: Origin. History and Examples

Updated on November 22, 2008

The Origin:

Murphy's Law ("If anything can go wrong, it will") was born at Edwards Air Force Base in 1949 at North Base.

It was named after Capt. Edward A. Murphy, an engineer working on Air Force Project MX981, (a project) designed to see how much sudden deceleration a person can stand in a crash.

One day, after finding that a transducer was wired wrong, he cursed the technician responsible and said, "If there is any way to do it wrong, he'll find it."

The contractor's project manager kept a list of "laws" and added this one, which he called Murphy's Law.

Actually, what he did was take an old law that had been around for years in a more basic form and give it a name.

Shortly afterwards, the Air Force doctor (Dr. John Paul Stapp) who rode a sled on the deceleration track to a stop, pulling 40 Gs, gave a press conference. He said that their good safety record on the project was due to a firm belief in Murphy's Law and in the necessity to try and circumvent it.

Aerospace manufacturers picked it up and used it widely in their ads during the next few months, and soon it was being quoted in many news and magazine articles. Murphy's Law was born.

The Northrop project manager, George E. Nichols, had a few laws of his own. Nichols' Fourth Law says, "Avoid any action with an unacceptable outcome."

The doctor, well-known Col. John P. Stapp, had a paradox: Stapp's Ironical Paradox, which says, "The universal aptitude for ineptitude makes any human accomplishment an incredible miracle."

Nichols is still around. At NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, he's the quality control manager for the Viking project to send an unmanned spacecraft to Mars.

Originally called "Sod's Law"

Sod's Law?

While I admit that the name of Murphy's laws is a pleasant one as is the story of how it came to light, but the original name for 'if anything can go wrong it will' was sod's law because it would happen to any poor sod who needed such a catastrophic event the least. It also removes the ability to say "I coined this phrase!" because sod's law has been around long before any living man and has existed in many forms for hundreds of years. In the English County of Yorkshire I know it to have been around for generations because it has been passed through several Yorkshire families I know. But this original name is dying out because sod over in the U.K. is a cursory so is not used much. Murphy's on the other hand is nothing insulting or lacking in hope I hope this clears any problems up and while this maybe hard to come to terms with, think about it, would such an obvious piece of logic have only come about in the second half of the 20th century????

Murphy's Laws If anything can go wrong, it will !

Twists on Murphy's (or Sod's) Law:

Love Laws All the good ones are taken

Tech Laws New systems generate new problems

Computer Laws Any given program, when running, is obsolete

Commerce Laws To err is human, to forgive is not company policy

Real Estate Laws At least one check will be "lost in the mail" every month

Teaching Laws You never catch on until after the test

War Laws Friendly fire - isn't

Cops Laws Bullet Proof' vests aren't

MP Laws No street-wise unit ever passed inspection

Sewing Laws The scissors cut easiest past the buttonhole

Murphy Volunteer Bush-fire Brigade Laws If it's stupid but it works, it ain't stupid

Photography Laws Auto Focus - won't

Nurses Laws Doctors only ask your name when the patient isn't doing well

Bus Law If you're running late the bus will be too

Lotto Laws You match 4 numbers, but you lost your ticket

Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS) Laws Peep sights don't.

Cars Laws An oil leak will develop.

Toddler Laws When you forget the stroller they will want to ride.

EMT Laws All bleeding stops... eventually.

Graphic Design Laws Your best idea is already copyrighted.

Mothers Laws Mother's way is best. If you don't believe it, ask her.

Scouts Laws The easier the rules of the game the fewer will want to play.

Political Laws No matter who gets elected, Government always gets in.

Golf Laws Whenever you think you might par you boogie.

Employees Laws The more work you are promised, the harder it is to find.

Office Laws When you don't have much work... all your colleagues will be busy.

Music Laws At least one mobile phone will ring during a rehearsal or concert.

Horse Laws Horses you hate cannot be sold and will outlive you.

Martial Arts Laws You are not Bruce Lee.


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  • profile image

    luis collazo 6 years ago

    very important for ours life

  • GusTheRedneck profile image

    Gustave Kilthau 7 years ago from USA

    St. James - An enjoyable compilation of important and irrefutable laws.

    Gus :-)))