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Galileo Galilei Discovers . . . Backspin!
|Game||Stoolball, TennisStoolball, Tennis|
|Immediacy of Report||Contemporary|
|Age of Players||AdultAdult|
The great scientist wrote, in a treatise discussing how the ball behaves in different ball games, including tennis: "Stool-ball, when they play in a stony way, . . . they do not trundle the ball upon the ground, but throw it, as if to pitch a quait. . . . . To make the ball stay, they hold it artificially with their hand uppermost, and it undermost, which in its delivery hath a contrary twirl or rolling conferred upon it by the fingers, by means whereof in its coming to the ground neer the mark it stays there, or runs very little forwards."
(see Supplemental Text, below, for a longer excerpt, which also includes the effect of "cutting" balls in tennis as a helpful tactic.)
Galileo Galilei, Mathematical Collections and Translations. "Inglished from his original Italian copy by Thomas Salusbury" (London, 1661), page 142.
Provided by David Block, emails of 2/27/2008 and 9/13/2015.
David further asks: "could it be that this is the source of the term putting "English" on a ball?"
Can we really assume that Galileo was familiar with 1600s stoolball and tennis? Is it possible that this excerpt reflects commentary by Salusbury, rather that strict translation from the Italian source?
|Has Supplemental Text||Yes|
"...And from hence ariseth the resolution of that slight, which the more skilful Tennis Players use to their advantage; that is, to gull their adversary by cutting (for so is their Phrase) the Ball; which is, to return it with a side Rachet, in such a manner, that it doth thereby acquire a motion by it self contrary to the projected motion, and so by that means, at its coming to the ground, the rebound, which if the ball did not turn in that manner, would be towards the adversary, giving him the usual time to tosse it back again, doth fail, and the ball runs tripping along the ground, or rebounds lesse than usual, and breaketh the time of the return. Hence it is that you see, those who play at Stool-ball, when they play in a stony way, or a place full of holes and rubs that make the ball trip an hundred several wayes, never suffering it to come neer the mark, to avoid them all, they do not trundle the ball upon the ground, but throw it, as if they were to pitch a quait. But because in throwing the ball, it issueth out of the hand with some roling conferred by the fingers, when ever the hand is under the ball, as it is most commonly held; whereupon the ball in its lighting on the ground neer to the mark, between the motion of the projicient and that of the roling, would run a great way from the same: To make the ball stay, they hold it artificially, with their hand uppermost, and it undermost, which in its delivery hath a contrary twirl or roling conferred upon it by the fingers, by means whereof in its coming to the ground neer the mark it stays there, or runs very very little forwards."