Forma, Vol. 12 (Nos. 3, 4), pp. 247-262, 1997
Original Paper

The False Premise of Wolff's Law

S. C. Cowin

Department of Mechanical Engineering, The School of Engineering of The City College; and The Graduate School of The City University of New York, New York, NY 10031, U.S.A.

(Received May 7, 1996; Accepted November 11, 1996)

Keywords: Bone, Remodeling, Wolff's Law, History, Premise

Abstract. Many have argued that the rigid form of Wolff's Law of Trabecular Architecture, that promulgated by WOLFF (1892, 1986), is nonsense. That view is endorsed here. The rigid form of the law, called the "orthodox trabecular theory" (MURRAY, 1936), compares things that appear to be similar, but are not, namely stress trajectories in a homogenous isotropic elastic material and the trabecular architecture of cancellous bone—this comparison is referred to here as the false premise. That is not to say that references to Wolff's law in the literature are nonsense. They are not because they generally refer to Roux's (1885a) concept of functional adaptation of osseous tissue, an aspect of Wolff's law that is founded in biological thought and experiment and with which Wolff did not fully agree. A clear statement of the biologically significant aspect of Wolff's law has not yet appeared.