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Training Tennis Players through Natural Philosophy: From Scaino’s Trattato to Garsault’s Art du paumier

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The motion of tennis balls has always been taken as a particularly interesting example of the complexity of the laws of motion. In this essay I survey the historical and cultural background of the use of the tennis ball as a scientific example of motion and its laws from the late Italian Renaissance onwards. I have examined in particular Antonio Scaino’s Trattato del giuco della palla (1555) and its scientific sources. Scaino’s effort to provide his readers with a scientific explanation of various tennis shots inspired the authors of other texts on sports to adopt an approach that combined science and leisure activities. However, the mysterious irregular trajectory of the tennis ball remained unexplained until 1852 when the German physicist Heinrich Gustav Magnus demonstrated mathematically how the action of air was the cause of the variation in motion of projectiles.

Affiliations: 1: Università di Bologna, Italy,


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