Ernst Mach 1838-1916

 Working as both an Austrian physicist and philosopher, Ernst Mach's work had a great influence on 20th-century thought, both in physics and in philosophy. He was born on February 18, 1838, at Turas in Moravia and educated in Wien. He was a Professor of Physics at Graz from 1864 -1867, at Prague from 1867-1895, and Professor of Inductive Philosophy at Wien from 1895-1901. He was made a member of the Austrian House of Peers in 1901 and died at Munchen on February 19, 1916.

 Mach was a thorough-going positivist and took the view, which most scientists now share, that no statement is admissible in natural science unless it is empirically verifiable. His criteria of verifiability were exceptionally rigorous and led him not only to reject such metaphysical conceptions as that of absolute space and time, but also to oppose the introduction of atoms and molecules into physical theory. Nevertheless, it was his criticism along these lines of Sir Isaac Newton's system that made the way clear for Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. As a positivist, he regarded scientific laws as purely descriptive and held that the choice between alternative hypotheses covering the same facts was to be made on the grounds of economy.

 Mach's name is most closely associated with the Mach Number which expresses the speed of matter relative to the local speed of sound.

Grigull, Sandner, Straud, Winkler. Origins of Dimensionless Groups of Heat and Mass Transfer. Lehrstuhl a Fuer Thermodynamik Technische Universitaet Muenchen. IHTC, Muenchen 1982.

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