The curve has the form of a snail1), so that
it is also called the snail curve. It's the epitrochoid for which the rolling circle and the
rolled circle have the same radius. The curve can also be defined as a conchoid.
The curve is called the limaçon of Pascal
(or snail of Pascal).
It is not named to the famous mathematician Blaise Pascal, but to his father, Etienne
Pascal. He was a correspondent for Mersenne, a mathematician who made a large
effort to mediate new knowledge (in writing) between the great mathematicians of that era.
The name of the curve was given by Roberval when he used the curve
drawing tangents to for differentiation.
But before Pascal, Dürer had already discovered the curve,
since he gave a method for drawing the limaçon, in 'Underweysung der Messung'
Sometimes the limaçon is confined to values b < 1. We might call this curve an
ordinary limaçon. It is a transitional
form between the circle (b=0) and
the cardioid (b=1).
When we extend the curve to values for b > 1, a noose appears.
For b = 2, the curve is called the trisectrix
or the limaçon trisectrix.
This curve has as alternative equation: r = sin φ/3.
The name of the trisectrix2) is because angle BAP is 3 times angle APO.
An alternative name for the limaçon is arachnid3)
or spider curve. These names follow from Dürer.
Some fine properties of the curve are:
The limaçon is an anallagmatic
For b unequal zero, the curve is a quartic, in Cartesian coordinates
it can be written as a fourth degree equation4).
1) limax (Lat.) = snail
2) Tri = three, sectrix = angle.
3) from arakne (Gr.) = spider.
In French: arachnée
4) equation: (x2 + y2 - by)2 = x2