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1661.1 Galileo Galilei Discovers . . . Backspin!
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?