The Shape and History of The Ellipse in Washington, D.C.

Clark Kimberling
Bridges: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science (2004)
Pages 231–242


When conic sections are introduced to mathematics classes, certain real-world examples are often cited. Favorites include lamp-shade shadows for hyperbolas, paths of baseballs for parabolas, and planetary orbits for ellipses. There is, however, another outstanding example of an ellipse. Known simply as the Ellipse, it is a gathering place for thousands of Americans every year, and it is probably the world's largest noncircular ellipse. Situated just south of the White House in President's Park, the Ellipse has an interesting shape and an interesting history.