Ernst Mach, Austrian physicist

Ernst Mach, Austrian physicist

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Credit: GARY BROWN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Caricature of the Austrian physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach (1838-1916). Mach is best known for his contributions to physics such as the Mach number and the study of shock waves. He made important contributions to the understanding of the Doppler effect and proposed, and experimentally confirmed, that shock waves took the form of a cone with the projectile at the apex. Experiments in airflow led to the Mach angle and Mach number (ratio of a projectile's speed to the speed of sound) and thus sonic and supersonic speed measurements. He also discovered how the organs of the inner ear sensed balance. Mach's philosophy of science influenced many 19th and 20th century scientists, including Einstein.

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