Murphy’s Law was named after a real man. Hear his story

Murphy’s Law was named after a real man. Hear his story

We’ve all had those times when it seems nothing can go right. We’re running late and hit every single red light. The bread always lands butter side down. Wear white and you are guaranteed to spill on yourself. None of these examples are as painful as what happened to the man who inspired the saying.

There really was a Murphy, and he was an engineer in the United States Air Force. Captain Edward A. Murphy Jr. Worked on a project at Edwards Air Force Base in California in 1949 where he was trying to determine how much G force a human being could withstand. His findings were to be used in future airplane designs.

Colonel John Paul Stapp, a physician for the Air Force, volunteered to be the human guinea pig for Murphy’s team’s experimentation. Over the course of several months he suffered broken bones, concussions, and broken blood vessels in his eyes for the advancement of science (and the law isn't even named after him!).

During one of the tests, Cpt. Murphy brought 16 sensors to be applied to Col. Stapp’s harness in order to measure the force applied when a rocket came to a sudden stop. After the first test, all of the sensors measured zero. Murphy investigated. Each sensor had two possible ways of connection. Defying all odds of probability, each one of the 16 sensors was connected incorrectly. Murphy allegedly grumbled about the technician whose job had been to hook up the sensors, saying something like, “If there are two ways to do something, and one of those ways will result in disaster, he’ll do it that way.”

Later, in a press conference, Stapp, known for his wit, quoted that line from Murphy, saying their good safety record was due to their awareness of Murphy’s Law, anticipating that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. The “law” was quickly incorporated into modern vocabulary. Apparently it is a universal idea most people can (unfortunately) relate to.



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