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?


1 Answer 1


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

  • $\begingroup$ 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"? $\endgroup$
    – user2168
    May 1, 2014 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ @user2168 no, I have no idea. I am sorry. $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    May 1, 2014 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ Lift and drag coefficients are often presented as a function of angle of attack. Since these values are a function of angle, I call them polars, regardless of whether the plot is created on a Cartesian or polar set of axes. $\endgroup$ Aug 12 at 20:20

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