Inventor recalled as ‘brilliant,’ ‘humble’
Harry Ferrari didn’t like synthetic strings on 1970s-era tennis rackets, so he applied his knowledge of nuclear engineering and invented better strings by irradiating them with gamma rays.
Harry Max Ferrari, a scientist, engineer, inventor and entrepreneur from Fox Chapel, died Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. He was 84.
Family and friends described him as a highly intelligent, unassuming man who started out selling Christmas lights imported from Italy and parlayed that into a sports equipment business that employs about 40 people in Pittsburgh. He worked at the same time as a consulting engineer for Westinghouse’s Nuclear Fuel Division.
“He was a quiet guy, a very kind guy,” said his son, Matthew Ferrari, 45, of Oakland, who succeeded him as president and CEO of Gamma Sports, based in Washington’s Landing.
Born in Detroit, Mr. Ferrari graduated from Wayne State University with a bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering. He earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in materials science from the University of Michigan.
He went to work for Westinghouse in 1958, where he designed and patented equipment for nuclear power plants around the globe. He held 40 patents, his son said.
Mr. Ferrari’s idea for improving tennis strings came from playing in a tournament in Edgewood in the early 1970s. The natural gut strings on his racket broke, and he was forced to use one with synthetic strings. He said the strings were horrible, and he remembered reading a paper about using gamma rays to improve them.
“It really was a great idea, and it really made a great difference,” Matthew Ferrari said.
Longtime friend Jose Juves, 72, of Shadyside said Mr. Ferrari loved to travel abroad and attended the U.S. Open tennis tournament each year in New York.
“We, with another couple, hired a barge in France, and we went canaling,” Juves said. “We actually drove the barge ourselves. For 20 years, we went to the U.S. Open with Harry.”
Tom Murphy, 74, of Fox Chapel, another close friend, said Mr. Ferrari was well-versed in sports cars. He had a Ferrari that he restored, he said.
“As brilliant as he was, he was humble,” Murphy said. “He was quiet … and a thoughtful gentleman. He will be sorely missed, believe me.”
In addition to his son Matthew, Mr. Ferrari is survived by his wife, Velma; a son, Alex Ferrari of Los Angeles; and two grandsons.
Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday at John A. Freyvogel Sons Inc., 4900 Centre Ave., Shadyside, with a memorial prayer service at 7:30 p.m. A graveside service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday in Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cemetery in McCandless.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff reporter. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, email@example.com or via Twitter .