ERNST MACH Biography - Famous Scientists


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Ernst Mach (February 18, 1838 - February 19, 1916) was an Austrian physicist and     
philosopher and is the namesake for the "Mach number" (also known as Mach speed)     
and the optical illusion known as Mach bands.                                       
Ernst Mach was born in Chrlice (now part of Brno), Czech Republic. Up to the age     
of 15 he was educated at home by his parents. He then joined the local Gymnasium     
and in 1855 the University of Vienna. There he studied mathematics, physics and     
philosophy, and received a doctorate in physics in 1860. His early work was         
focused on the Doppler effect in optics and acoustics. In 1864 he took a job as     
Professor of Mathematics in Graz, in 1866 he was also appointed as Professor of     
Physics. During that period Mach became interested also in the physiology of         
sensory perception. In 1867 he took the chair of Professor of Experimental           
Physics at Charles University, Prague, where he stayed for 28 years.                 
Bust of Mach in the Rathauspark (City Hall Park), Vienna, Austria.                   
In 1897 he suffered a stroke and in 1901 retired from the University and was         
appointed to the upper chamber of the Austrian parliament. On leaving that post     
in 1913 he moved to his son's home in Vatterstetten, near Munich where he           
continued writing books until his death.                                             
Most of his studies in the field of experimental physics were devoted to             
interference, diffraction, polarization and refraction of light in different         
media under external influences. These studies were soon followed by his             
important explorations in the field of supersonic velocity. Mach's paper on this     
subject was published in 1877 and correctly describes the sound effects observed     
during the supersonic motion of a projectile. Mach deduced and experimentally       
confirmed the existence of a shock wave which has the form of a cone with the       
projectile at the apex. The ratio of the speed of projectile to the speed of         
sound vp/vs is now called the Mach number.                                           
In the area of sensory perception, he is best known for an optical illusion         
called the Mach band.