DOI: 10.17720/2409-5834.v3.4.2016.36q

Alexander S. Аvrunin, Elena А. Tses
Russian Scientific Research Institute of Traumatology and Orthopedics named after R.R. Vreden

A brief biography of Julius Wolff is presented. It is demonstrated that the basis for the law he discovered is the graphic statics method of Carl Culmann and anatomist G.H. von Meyer’s data on the internal structure of the proximal femur. It was namely this cooperation between anatomist and engineer that led to the emergence of a new scientific field – the biomechanics of the skeleton. Wolff’s errors in biological concepts are reviewed – first of all, the claim that trabeculae always intersect perpendicular to each other. In fact, Wolff limited his concept of the ideal situation in which the mechanical environment is characterized by a sole or predominant load. Also presented is contemporary geneticists’ criticism of Wolff’s assertions, which arose due to the popularization of the reverse hypothesis – that the shape of the bone can be used to reconstruct actions that “produced” this form according to “mathematical laws”. The paper stresses that Wolff’s merit lies in his creation of a theoretical concept, which to date is the basis of the development of not only theoretical but also practical adaptation aspects of biomechanics of the skeleton. It is also noted that this concept is, in fact, a model that has all the advantages and disadvantages inherent in the modeling of biological objects.
The Russian translation of the first fragment of Wolff’s monograph Das Gesetz der Transformation der Knochen (Berlin, 1892) is presented. The introduction into the Russian language of a first-hand source will allow specialists interested in the problems of biomechanics to receive a complete picture of the impact of Wolff’s law on the development of modern biomechanics of the skeleton and its significance for the development of orthopedics and traumatology.

Keywords: Julius Wolff, biomechanics of the skeleton, bone mechanical properties, Wolff’s law, lines of force, spongy bone

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