Ernst Mach 1838-1916

  • Mach's Early Life

    Born in Brno, Czechia on February 18, 1838, Ernst Walfried Josef Wenzel Mach would soon become a physicist and philosopher. He is most widely known for his contributions to physics with the study of shock waves.
  • Shockwaves and Supersonic Speed

    During a visit to Vienna, Ernst published his paper titled "Photographische Fixierung der durch Projektile in der Luft eingeleiten Vorgange" which discusses the supersonic flow and shock waves which he created with bullets moving at supersonic speed. He was able to capture this phenomenon using the shadowgraph imagine technique.
  • Further Contributions

    Mach, alongside his son Ludwig, were able to photograph the shadows of the invisible shock waves. They were able to discover the cone shape created by compression of air in front of a bullet when moving faster than the speed of sound.
  • Mach's Principle

    Mach also went on to discover that the inertia of a body can only be ascertained if there are other masses in the universe as a reference for measuring acceleration. Only the presence of other masses produces inertia.
  • Citations

    Seeger, Raymond J. On Mach’s Curiosity about Shockwaves - Springer. Tietz, Tabea. “Ernst Mach and the Eponymous Mach Number.” SciHi Blog, 18 Feb. 2019,
    Ernst Mach: Physicist and Philosopher, 1970, Volume 6