Ernst Mach (February 18, 1838 – February 19, 1916)

Timeline created by mjosmanski1
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    Early Life

    Ernst Mach was born on February 18th, 1838 in the Czech Republic. His father, Johann Mach, was a graduate of Prague University. His family moved to a farm near Vienna when he was an infant. Mach was homeschooled until 15. He then entered a school in Kremsier, where he studied for three years to prepare for a university. Mach enrolled as a student at the University of Vienna to study physics, philosophy, and mathematics from 1855-1860 when he graduated with his doctorate in physics.
  • Mach's Band

    During the 1860s, Mach discovered the tendency of the human eye to see bright or dark bands near the boundaries between areas of sharply differing illumination, which is now known as Mach's band.
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    Career Path

    Mach taught mathematics and physics at the University of Vienna. He conducted studies on acoustics and the Doppler Effect in optics and also created a simple apparatus that showed the Doppler Effect was real for sound. In 1864, he was offered a position as a professor of mathematics at the University of Graz and then switched to their professor of physics after two years. It is during his time here he discovered the physiological optical illusion that came to be known as “Mach’s bands”.
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    Late Life

    In 1867, Mach married Ludovica Marussig. The two had five children, four sons, and one daughter. In 1897 Mach had a stroke, causing the right side of his body to be paralyzed. In 1901 he retired from the University of Vienna and was appointed to the upper chamber of the Austrian parliament. He published an autobiography in 1910. In 1913, he left Vienna and moved in with his son, where he continued his writing until his death in 1916.
  • Vestibular System

    Vestibular System
    Mach and physician Josef Breuer discovered a non-acoustic function of the inner ear which helped control human balance, otherwise known as the Vestibular system.
  • Mach Number

    Mach Number
    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.
  • Video: Mach Numbers

  • Mach's Principle / Relativity of Inertia

    “Mach’s principle”, which was coined the name by Albert Einstein, explains the phenomenon of inertia by assuming that all of the masses in the universe are somehow connected. Mach’s inertial theories were named by Einstein as one of the influences for his theories of relativity. Mach argued that inertia applies only as a function of the interaction between one body and other bodies in the universe, even at enormous distances.
  • Sources

    The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Ernst Mach.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 15 Feb. 2020,
    “Ernst Mach.” Famous Scientists,
    Ernst Waldfried Josef Wenzel Mach,
    “Human Ear.” The Physiology Of Balance: Vestibular Function,