The compressive strength of single human osteons has been investigated in specially prepared samples using a microtesting machine equipped with a microwave micrometer. The main conclusions which can be drawn from our results are: (1) In agreement with Gebhardt's theories the ultimate compressive strength is greatest for osteons having transversally oriented fiber bundles, lowest for osteons having longitudinally oriented fiber bundles, and intermediate for osteons whose fiber bundles change direction in successive lamellae through an angle of about 90°. (2) The modulus of elasticity is greatest in osteons with transversally oriented fiber bundles. (3) With all three types of osteon the stress‐strain curves for fully calcified osteons are markedly different from those for osteons with low calcium content, the modulus of elasticity being much lower in osteons of the latter type. (4) Age seems to have no measurable influence on the compressive properties of osteons. (5) The comparison of compressive properties in single osteons and in macroscopic bone samples seems to support the view that the osteon is actually the mechanical unit of compact bone. (6) Fracture in osteon samples starts with microscopic fissures induced by shearing. (7) In every case these fissures form an angle of roughly 30°–35° with the axis of the osteon and do not appear to vary with the microscopic osteon structures. (8) Electron microscopy reveals distortion of bone crystals and breaking of collagen fibrils at the edges of the fissures.