Howard Brody, Physics

Howard Brody deceased

Howard Brody, professor emeritus of physics at Penn, died on August 11 of complications from Parkinson’s disease at Bryn Mawr Hospital. He was 83 years old.

Dr. Brody was born in Newark, New Jersey. He earned his bachelor of science in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1954), where he also played on the varsity tennis team. He then earned a master of science (1956) and a doctorate (1959), both in physics, from California Institute of Technology.

He taught physics at Penn from 1959 until his retirement in 1999. Famous for his insights into the physics of tennis, he wrote several books on the topic. Science Made Practical for the Tennis Teacher was published by the U.S. Professional Tennis Registry in 1986. Tennis Science for the Tennis Player was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 1987 and is still in print.

Much of Dr. Brody’s research focused on the interaction between the tennis ball and racket, including the optimal racket size and stiffness. He found that on larger rackets, the percussion center is closer to the physical center of the racket head, making larger rackets easier for many players to use. Some of his findings upended accepted beliefs: he found that looser racket strings allow for the ball to be hit with greater power than tighter strings.

Dr. Brody was a member of the sports scientific committee of the U.S. Tennis Association. He was also inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame as an educator.
Dr. Brody is survived by two daughters, Victoria Stevenson and Deirdre Bernstein, and five grandchildren. Donations may be made payable to the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, for the Lisa Lin Brody Foley Fund, and mailed to Laura Weber, Penn Arts and Sciences Office of Advancement, 3600 Market Street, Suite 300, Philadelphia, PA 19104.