Ernst Mach

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Ernst Mach (German pronunciation: [ˈɛɐnst ˈmax]) (February 18, 1838 – February 19, 1916) was an Austrian physicist and philosopher, remembered for his contributions to physics such as the Mach number and the study of shock waves. As a philosopher of science, he was a major influence on logical positivism and through his criticism of Newton, a forerunner of Einstein's relativity.



Ernst Mach was born in Chirlitz, in the Austrian empire (now Chrlice, part of Brno in the Czech Republic). His father, who had graduated from Prague University, acted as tutor to the noble Brethon family in Zlín, eastern Moravia. His Grandfather, Wenzl Lanhaus, an administrator of the estate Chirlitz, was also master builder of the streets there. His activities in that field later influenced the theoretical work of Ernst Mach. Some sources give Mach's birthplace as Turas/Tuřany (now also part of Brno), the site of the Chirlitz registry-office. Peregrin Weiss baptized Ernst Mach into the Roman Catholic Church in Turas/Tuřany.

Up to the age of 14 Mach, received his education at home from his parents. He then entered a Gymnasium in Kremsier (now Kroměříž), where he studied for three years. In 1855 he became a student at the University of Vienna. There he studied physics and for one semester medical physiology, receiving his doctorate in physics in 1860 and his Habilitation the following year. His early work focused on the Doppler effect in optics and acoustics. In 1864 he took a job as Professor of Mathematics in Graz, having turned down the position of a chair in surgery at the University of Salzburg to do so, and in 1866 he was appointed as Professor of Physics. During that period, Mach continued his work in psycho-physics and in sensory perception. In 1867, he took the chair of Professor of Experimental Physics at Charles-Ferdinand University, Prague, where he stayed for 28 years.

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