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See Wikipedia:Drag polar and Wikipedia:Polar curve (aviation) for example.

These curves are not on a polar coordinate system. Why are they called polars?

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up vote 12 down vote accepted

It is an historical name.

The first polars were drawn by Otto Lilienthal in polar coordinates.

Here (sorry, German link) we find an example:

enter image description here

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Just a follow-up out of curiousity... Do you know what the first "incorrect" borrowing of the term was? Ie. When was first time that a curve drawn on a non-polar coordinate system called a "polar"? – user2168 May 1 '14 at 16:07
    
@user2168 no, I have no idea. I am sorry. – Federico May 1 '14 at 16:26

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