Edsel Murphy was seven years old when his family migrated from Ireland to the USA. He became an engineer — indeed, a Professor of Engineering at MIT, the top engineering school in the world. He wrote a textbook on overengineering, which is the principle that a structure must be designed to withstand considerably more stresses than the maximum that can be expected in the given situation.
He expressed this requirement in the aphorism “Anything that can possibly go wrong will go wrong, at the worst possible time.”
Murphy died by his law. At 74 years of age he was out walking on one typically foggy, drizzly Boston evening. He wore a bright yellow raincoat and carried a flashlight he shone in front of himself. When he came to a stretch of road with no sidewalk, he ensured he was on the correct side of the road to face oncoming traffic.
He was knocked down and killed by a British tourist driving his Mini. The fellow’s windscreen and spectacles both got fogged up, and he drifted onto the left side of the road — correct for Britain, but fatally incorrect in America.
So, Murphy died by his own law.
And here comes Murphy’s law. For years I believed the above story to be true. Just before writing this, I thought I might as well check up on it.
Deer don’t have headlights. Not one word of this delightful tale is true. Murphy’s Law is attributed to an Ed Murphy who was different in every possible way from my professor.