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Julius Wolff

Julius Wolff was born 1836 in west Prussia. He succesfully graduated 1860 from his medical studies in Berlin and received his medical doctor degree in the field of surgery under the supervision of Bernhard von Langenbeck (1810-1887) from the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin in the same year. In 1861 Julius Wolff set up as general practitioner in Berlin. Julius Wolff was the first professor for Orthopaedics at the Charité and founder and directore of the first polyclinic for orthopaedic surgery in Berlin. His work represents one of the cornerstones that made orthopaedics an indipendent discipline in medicine. 

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Wolff's Law

From the book "Das Gesetz der Transformation der Knochen"

The key message of Wolff's law of the transformation reads "As a consequence of primary shape variations and continuous loading, or even due to loading alone, bone changes its inner architecture according to mathematical rules and, as a secondary effect and governed by the same mathematical rules, also changes its shape."

Simplified this says that the structure and shape of bone permanently adapt to the loading conditions. Wolff regarded this law of the transformation, which had also been influenced by Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902), as a "building block to the completion of the building" of Charles Darwin (1809–1882) theory.

The Scientist Julius Wolff

Portait of Julius Wolff, 1902

His interest in research in the field of surgery let him continue his experimental investigations on the growth and inner structure of bone also after the completion of his medical dissertation. In 1868 he qualified as a professor at the Charité and started as a private lecturer. Contemporary witnesses characterized Julius Wolff as an enthusiastic and inspiring teacher. Orthopaedic surgeons and other people travelled from afar to listen to his lectures.

After decades of research, Julius Wolff published his main work with the title "The Law of Transformation of Bone" in 1892. On 150 pages it contains the experimentally well supported and excellently described theory  with key message that is today called as the law of the transformation which says that structure and shape of bone permanently adapt to the loading conditions. Wolff's still classic work established orthopaedics as an independent discipline. He initiated the German Orthopaedic Society but shortly before its foundation in 1902 Julius Wolff died after a stroke.