A History of Murphy's Law Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of A History of Murphy's Law

"Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong" — is known as "Murphy's Law".

Murphy really did exist — Edward A. Murphy, Jr. (1918-1990) was a reliability engineer who worked on several important U.S. Air Force projects during his career. His Law came into being while he assisted Dr. John Paul Stapp at Edwards Air Force Base in the late 1940's.
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But the story does not end there. While conducting his research, Spark learned that controversy has raged for over fifty years regarding the meaning of the Law, and the role that Murphy played in creating it. To a certain extent, where the story of the origins of Murphy's Law is concerned, the Law is a victim of itself — full of error and Murphyesque complications.

Ed Murphy claimed in various accounts that he himself coined the phrase after one of his assistants made an error. But according to George Nichols, the project manager for Dr. John P. Stapp, the Law was created by him after he witnessed Ed Murphy make a serious mistake. The story of exactly who was at fault, and who coined the phrase behind "Murphy's Law", will probably forever remain obscure, since key players are deceased.

Whatever its origins, most everyone agrees that Dr. John Paul Stapp played a critical role in popularizing Murphy's Law. Featured on the cover of Time magazine in the 1950's, Stapp became known as the “Fastest Man on Earth” for his G-force experiments, which involved the use of rocket sleds. Millions of people owe their lives to Dr. Stapp, a famous researcher who helped develop restraint systems including automobile seatbelts.

According to Edward Murphy, he supplied Stapp with an instrument to help measure G-force on the rocket sled. After it failed during a test, Murphy blamed an underling for improperly wiring the device, stating that "If that guy has any way of making a mistake, he will."

A short time later John Paul Stapp, known for his razor sharp wit, suggested that the phrase would be a good candidate for a 'Murphy's Law'.

Stapp later publicized the Law in a press conference. When asked how no one had been injured during the dangerous tests, he quipped that he and his support staff had a "healthy respect for Murphy's Law."

The review of this Book prepared by Thomas Davis

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Chapter Analysis of A History of Murphy's Law

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Plot & Themes

job/profession:    -   scientist/inventor Job/profession/poverty story    -   Yes Period of greatest activity?    -   1950+

Subject of Biography

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   scientist Ethnicity    -   White Nationality    -   American Unusual characteristics:    -   Genius


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   2 () United States    -   Yes Misc setting    -   fort/military installation Century:    -   1930's-1950's

Writing Style

Book makes you feel?    -   encouraged    -   like laughing If this is a kid's book:    -   Age 16-Adult Pictures/Illustrations?    -   A ton 16-20 B&W How much dialogue in bio?    -   significantly more descript than dialog How much of bio focuses on most famous period of life?    -   51%-75% of book

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Nick T. Spark Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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