Concept

# Tangent

Summary
In geometry, the tangent line (or simply tangent) to a plane curve at a given point is the straight line that "just touches" the curve at that point. Leibniz defined it as the line through a pair of infinitely close points on the curve. More precisely, a straight line is said to be a tangent of a curve y = f(x) at a point x = c if the line passes through the point (c, f(c)) on the curve and has slope f(c), where f is the derivative of f. A similar definition applies to space curves and curves in n-dimensional Euclidean space. As it passes through the point where the tangent line and the curve meet, called the point of tangency, the tangent line is "going in the same direction" as the curve, and is thus the best straight-line approximation to the curve at that point. The tangent line to a point on a differentiable curve can also be thought of as a tangent line approximation, the graph of the affine function that best approximates the original function at the given point. Similarly, the tangent plane to a surface at a given point is the plane that "just touches" the surface at that point. The concept of a tangent is one of the most fundamental notions in differential geometry and has been extensively generalized; . The word "tangent" comes from the Latin tangere, "to touch". Euclid makes several references to the tangent (ἐφαπτομένη ephaptoménē) to a circle in book III of the Elements (c. 300 BC). In Apollonius' work Conics (c. 225 BC) he defines a tangent as being a line such that no other straight line could fall between it and the curve. Archimedes (c. 287 – c. 212 BC) found the tangent to an Archimedean spiral by considering the path of a point moving along the curve. In the 1630s Fermat developed the technique of adequality to calculate tangents and other problems in analysis and used this to calculate tangents to the parabola. The technique of adequality is similar to taking the difference between and and dividing by a power of . Independently Descartes used his method of normals based on the observation that the radius of a circle is always normal to the circle itself.