Guillotine

Guillotine

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Joseph Ignace Guillotin

One of the unpleasant scenes you may have seen in the movies is the execution of criminals, murderers, and thieves. However, over the years, strange and various methods have been used, such as crucifixion, burning in a fire, electric chair, and lethal injection.

Hanging is the most common method of execution in the world and guillotine is the oldest method of hanging.  In 1789, a French physician, Joseph Ignace Guillotine first suggested that all criminals should be executed by a “machine that beheads painlessly." The method, which has been officially used since 1792, is almost reminiscent of the French Revolution.

During the last years of the seventeenth century, in France, executions were often public and attended by large crowds. One of the most common methods of execution was tying a prisoner to four animals (mostly cows). All four animals are sent running in different directions at the same time which separated a person's body. This method was commonly used for poor prisoners, and if the prisoner was from the higher social class, hanging as a less painful method was more common.

The process continued until Dr. Joseph Guillotine's invention completely changed the execution. Dr.Guillotine was born on 28 May 1738 in Saintes, France, and was a member of the National Assembly in 1789, just in his fifth decade of life. He belonged to a small reform movement group that sought to banish the death penalty completely.

It should be noted that before France and in different historical eras, Germans, Italians, Scots, and even Iranians used special devices to cut off the heads of aristocratic criminals. But the use of a special device was very rare in large-scale. The guillotine practically was the first machine used to execute people. Doctor Guillotin together with German engineer Tobias Schmidt, built the prototype for an ideal guillotine machine and Schmidt suggested using a diagonal blade instead of a round blade.

You may be wondering how a person that opposed capital punishment, provided an invention about execution. "The new method of the death penalty is painless and the same for all society, rich and poor, and this will be a step towards a prohibition on the death penalty," said Dr. Guillotine. This can only be considered a personal opinion because the guillotine became known as an unfeelingly well-organized killing machine in France.

It should be noted that there is another story about how the guillotine was made and used. While Guillotin was introducing the device, Dr. Antoine Louis designed the guillotine machine, and the machine first was called a "Louisette", or "liaison". He had first tested his invented device on live sheep and cattle, and later the machine had been used in several experiments on human corpses and the final prototype was made by Tobias Schmidt. Regardless of how accurate the story is, almost everyone knows the guillotine machine as Dr. Joseph Guillotine machine, due to the name of the machine.

In order to better understand the process of using the guillotine, we must refer to the French Revolution and its adventures. French Revolution from the years 1789-1799 faced many changes and the result was the end of the monarchy. During the ten years, the violence gradually increased, and the climax of violence was when, in 1792 the radical revolutionaries the Club des Jacobins, came to power. At this time, the King had been deposed and revolutionary executions began. King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette was executed by guillotine on October 16, 1793.

The guillotine has become the bloody symbol of the French Revolution, and even the image of this horrible machine was embossed on women's jewelry. At the time, radical faction, Jacobins had two influential leaders, Maximilien Robespierre and Georges Danton, who later had a disagreement, and then Danton fell to the guillotine. Interestingly, when Danton was executed, he said, "the people will tear my enemies to pieces within 3 months." and exactly in July 1794, Robespierre and his followers were guillotined, so the Reign of Terror ended. As a result, the famous phrase "the revolution eats its children" came to the fore. Napoleon Bonaparte, as a revolutionary general, came to power in 1799 and crowned himself emperor in 1804.

Guillotines had been used to execute people for many years, and during this time, its improvement had been continued.  Noted improvements to the guillotine machine were made in 1870 by Leon Berger. He was an assistant executioner and carpenter, he added a new release mechanism and lock device, which has been applied to all produced machines since that year.

It should be noted that the last execution by guillotine occurred on September 10, 1977, in Marseille, France according to historical documents. There are some interesting facts about this historical invention that might be worth to know:

·       The total weight of a guillotine is about 1278 pounds (570 kg) of which approximately 40 kg weighed the metal blade of a guillotine.

·       The height of guillotine averages about 2.4 meters that had caused the falling blade has a rate of speed of about 6 meters/second.

·       In a scientific effort to determine how a person felt at the time of execution by the guillotine, in 1879, three French physicians attended the execution of three-man. In response, they could record only that face, "bore a look of astonishment."