|(born Febuary 18, 1838 in Chirlitz-Turas, Moravia, Austrian Empire and died Febuary 19, 1916 in Haar, Germany)|
| Ernst Mach was an Austrian
physicist and philosopher who established important
principles of optics, mechanics, and wave dynamics and
who supported the view that all knowledge is a conceptual
organization of the data of sensory experience (or
Mach was educated at home until the age of 14, then went briefly to gymnasium (high school) before entering the University of Vienna at 17. He received his doctorate in physics in 1860 and taught mechanics and physics in Vienna until 1864, when he became professor of mathematics at the University of Graz. Mach's interests had already begun to turn to the psychology and physiology of sensation, although he continued to identify himself as a physicist and to conduct physical research throughout his career. During the 1860s he discovered the physiological phenomenon that has come to be called Mach's bands, the tendency of the human eye to see bright or dark bands near the boundaries between areas of sharply differing illumination.
Mach left Graz to become professor of experimental physics at the Charles University in Prague in 1867, remaining there for the next 28 years. There he conducted studies on kinesthetic sensation, the feeling associated with movement and acceleration. Between 1873 and 1893 he developed optical and photographic techniques for the measurement of sound waves and wave propagation. In 1887 he established the principles of supersonics and the Mach number--the ratio of the velocity of an object to the velocity of sound. In Beitrdge zur Analyse der Empfindungen (1886; Contributions to the Analysis of the Sensations, 1897), Mach advanced the concept that all knowledge is derived from sensation; thus, phenomena under scientific investigation can be understood only in terms of experiences, or "sensations," present in the observation of the phenomena. This view leads to the position that no statement in natural science is admissible unless it is empirically verifiable. Mach's exceptionally rigorous criteria of verifiability led him to reject such metaphysical concepts as absolute time and space, and prepared the way for the Einstein relativity theory.
Mach also proposed the physical principle, known as Mach's principle, that inertia (the tendency of a body at rest to remain at rest and of a body in motion to continue in motion in the same direction) results from a relationship of that object with all the rest of the matter in the universe. Inertia, Mach argued, applies only as a function of the interaction between one body and other bodies in the universe, even at enormous distances. Mach's inertial theories also were cited by Einstein as one of the inspirations for his theories of relativity.
Mach returned to the University of Vienna as professor of inductive philosophy in 1895, but he suffered a stroke two years later and retired from active research in 1901, when he was appointed to the Austrian parliament. He continued to lecture and write in retirement, publishing Erkenntnis und Irrtum ("Knowledge and Error") in 1905 and an autobiography in 1910.
Mach number, in fluid mechanics, is the ratio of the velocity of a fluid to the velocity of sound in that fluid, named after Ernst Mach (1838-1916), an Austrian physicist and philosopher. In the case of an object moving through a fluid, such as an aircraft in flight, the Mach number is equal to the velocity of the object relative to the fluid divided by the velocity of sound in that fluid. Mach numbers less than one indicate subsonic flow; those greater than one, supersonic flow. Fluid flow, in addition, is classified as compressible or incompressible on the basis of the Mach number. For example, gas flowing with a Mach number of less than three-tenths may be considered incompressible, or of constant density, a point of view that greatly simplifies the analysis of its behaviour. For higher Mach numbers, compressibility must be considered, as in aircraft flight, spacecraft reentry, and jet- and rocket-propulsion systems.
Mach's principle, in cosmology, is the hypothesis that the inertial forces experienced by a body in nonuniform motion are determined by the quantity and distribution of matter in the universe. It was so called by Albert Einstein after the 19th-century Austrian physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach. Einstein found the hypotheses helpful in formulating his theory of general relativity--i.e., it was suggestive of a connection between geometry and matter-- and attributed the idea to Mach, unaware that the English philosopher George Berkeley had proposed similar views during the 1700s. (Berkeley had argued that all motion, both uniform and nonuniform, was relative to the distant stars.) Einstein later abandoned the principle when it was realized that inertia is implicit in the geodesic equation of motion and need not depend on the existence of matter elsewhere in the universe.