French Curve


French curves are plastic (or wooden) templates having an edge composed of several different curves. French curves are used in drafting (or were before computer-aided design) to draw smooth curves of almost any desired curvature in mechanical drawings. Several typical French curves are illustrated above.

While an undergraduate at MIT, Feynman (1997, p. 23) used a French curve to illustrate the fallacy of learning without understanding. When he pointed out to his colleagues in a mechanical drawing class the "amazing" fact that the tangent at the lowest (or highest) point on the curve was horizontal, none of his classmates realized that this was trivially true, since the derivative (tangent) at an extremum (lowest or highest point) of any curve is zero (horizontal), as they had already learned in calculus class.

See also

Cornu Spiral

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Feynman, R. P. "Who Stole the Door?" In 'Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!': Adventures of a Curious Character. New York: W. W. Norton, 1997.

Referenced on Wolfram|Alpha

French Curve

Cite this as:

Weisstein, Eric W. "French Curve." From MathWorld--A Wolfram Web Resource.

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