The Guillotine

Essay by Seventy8Z28High School, 12th gradeA+, April 2003

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The guillotine was used as a form of capital punishment in France from 1792 to 1977. The device is named for Dr. Joseph Ignace Guillotin, although it was not actually invented by him. Dr. Guillotin was a Frenchman who was outraged that criminals who were put to death had to suffer so much before dying, and he called for a more humane form of punishment. He figured out that a beheading delivered the least amount of torture. Dr. Guillotin delivered his idea in the form of six articles to the French government. After a lengthy debate, they accepted his proposal and the use of the guillotine became the sole form of capital punishment.

Soon after the acceptance of Dr. Guillotin's proposal, the French government got to work on creating the machine. A man named Tobias Schmidt was hired to build it and got paid 960 francs for doing so.

Schmidt is the true inventor of the guillotine. After many trials on sheep and human corpses, the guillotine was put into use, with the first official beheading occurring on April 25, 1792. After some minor adjustments in it's build, the use of the guillotine became commonplace and had many victims, including it's most famous ones, French King Louis XVI and his wife Queen Marie Antoinette in 1793.

The guillotine remained mostly the same in structure until around 1870-72, when a man named Leon Berger made some changes that included such improvements as a better release mechanism, and a spring to stop the blade at the bottom. This was the last change made to the machine, and after this, all others were built according to Berger's specifications.

The last public execution in France occurred in 1937, when public executions were banned. After this ban, the law stated that all future executions...