Edward A. Murphy, Jr.
|Edward Aloysius Murphy, Jr.|
|Born||January 11, 1918
Panama Canal Zone
|Died||July 17, 1990(aged 72)|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army
United States Air Force
|Years of service||1940 – 1947 (USA)
1947 – 1952 (USAF)
|Battles/wars||Pacific Theatre of World War II, Korean War|
|Other work||Research in aerospace engineering and reliability engineering|
Edward Aloysius Murphy, Jr. (January 11, 1918 – July 17, 1990) was an American aerospace engineer who worked on safety-critical systems. He is best known for his namesake Murphy's law, which is said to state, "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."
Born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1918, Murphy was the eldest of five children. After attending high school in New Jersey, he went to the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1940. The same year he accepted a commission into the United States Army, and undertook pilot training with the United States Army Air Corps in 1941. During World War II he served in the Pacific Theater in India, China and Burma (now known as Myanmar), achieving the rank of major.
Following the end of hostilities, in 1947 Murphy attended the United States Air Force Institute of Technology, becoming R&D Officer at the Wright Air Development Center of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. It was while here that he became involved in the high-speed rocket sled experiments (USAF project MX981, 1949) which led to the coining of Murphy's law. Murphy himself was reportedly unhappy with the commonplace interpretation of his law, which is seen as capturing the essential "cussedness" of inanimate objects. Murphy regarded the law as crystallizing a key principle of defensive design, in which one should always assume worst-case scenarios. Murphy was said by his son to have regarded the many jocular versions of the law as "ridiculous, trivial and erroneous." His attempts to have the law taken more seriously were unsuccessful.
In 1952, having resigned from the United States Air Force, Murphy carried out a series of rocket acceleration tests at Holloman Air Force Base, then returned to California to pursue a career in aircraft cockpit design for a series of private contractors. He worked on crew escape systems for some of the most famous experimental aircraft of the 20th century, including the F-4 Phantom II, the XB-70 Valkyrie, the SR-71 Blackbird, the B-1 Lancer, and the X-15 rocket plane. During the 1960s, he worked on safety and life support systems for Project Apollo, and ended his career with work on pilot safety and computerized operation systems on the Apache helicopter.
- Spark, Nick T. (2003). "The Fastest Man on Earth: Why Everything You Know About Murphy's Law is Wrong". Annals of Improbable Research 9 (5). Retrieved May 2008.
- Biographical information taken from Matthews, R. A. J. (1998) "The Science of Murphy's Law", Proc Roy Inst Lond 70 75–95
- The actual law was guidance to his engineers, to design components that could not be mistakenly used in service: "If a part can be installed in more than one position, it will be incorrectly installed in the field." Johnson, Doug (30 November 2006). "A Question from Vietnam on Murphy's Law". Voice of America.