The execution mechanism "guillotine" got its name from the surname of the French physician Joseph Guillotin. At the same time, Guillotin himself did not invent anything new; a similar device was known in the British Isles back in the 11th century. Many death sentences were passed at that time, therefore, local craftsmen, wishing to facilitate the hard work of the executioner, came up with a special mechanism of two vertical posts with a horizontal crossbar. And inside the structure was attached a huge heavy blade, which, rapidly falling down, cut off the head of the condemned. In some cities this device was called the "Galifax Gallows", in others the "Scottish Maiden".
But Joseph Guillotin was a staunch opponent of the death penalty. He pursued one single goal - to alleviate the suffering of the unfortunate. He was friends with the famous Parisian executioner Charles Henri Sanson, from whom he heard many details about the peculiarities of this craft. Moreover, the love of music united these completely different people. Guillotin played the harpsichord, and Sanson played the violin.
The nobles and wealthy representatives of the bourgeoisie were executed at that time more "humanely" - they cut off their heads. But everyone else had to suffer before death, they were burned, quartered or hung. On October 10, 1789, Dr. Joseph Guillotin, speaking at a meeting of the Constituent Assembly, proposed using a mechanism that could ease the torment by killing instantly.
Guillotin suggested that the heavy knife should be mounted at a height of 2-3 meters. From this height, he fell on the head of the convict, who was tied with belts to the bench. The guillotine was legalized in 1791. Interestingly, Guillotin himself was only the author of the idea, and another doctor, Antoine Louis, took up the drawings. Then the German engineer Tobias Schmidt got down to business. He made a mechanism weighing more than 500 kilograms, while the weight of the blade was 40 kilograms.
The first experiments were carried out on animals, then on human corpses. Then the device was often called not "guillotine", but "louisette", in honor of Dr. Antoine Louis. And the first execution with the use of the guillotine took place in April 1792. The victim was a criminal named Nicolas-Jacques Pelletier. It is thanks to the fact that he was the first to be executed that his name went down in history. And the mechanism was set in motion by Guillotin's old friend - the executioner Charles Henri Sanson.
Soon the guillotine started working at full capacity. Among those executed were: the former King of France Louis XVI, his entourage. Then their fate was shared by famous figures of the Great French Revolution: Maximilian Robespierre, Georges Jacques Danton, Georges Couton and others. On some days, the number of those executed was in the tens. In the middle of the 19th century, guillotines also appeared in some German principalities.
The guillotine did not remain idle even after the end of the revolution in France. In the seventies of the nineteenth century, the French carpenter Leon Berger took up its improvement. He assembled the device, which became "mobile", it could be disassembled and transported, if necessary, to the place of execution. Berger's work was dissatisfied with many provincial French executioners, now they have lost their jobs.
On September 14, 1932, the Russian emigrant Pavel Gorgulov was included in the long list of those executed by the guillotine. A native of Kuban left Russia in the early twenties. In Prague, he graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at Charles University, then moved to France. Here he studied medicine and literature. On May 6, 1932, at a book fair, Pavel Gorgulov killed French President Paul Doumer by shooting him several times with a Browning.
The last public execution by guillotine took place on July 17, 1939. On this day, serial killer Eugen Weidman was beheaded. The execution caused unrest in Paris and scandalous articles in the press. As you can see, in the people of the twentieth century, such spectacles aroused not curiosity, as before, but horror. Since then, it was decided to execute the criminals only on the territory of the prison without spectators.
In Western Europe, the guillotine was last activated on September 10, 1977. In a Marseille prison, a Tunisian-born Hamid Jandoubi was executed. A whole train of crimes followed him - murder, torture, rape. In 1981, the death penalty was abolished in France and the guillotine was no longer in demand.
And how did Joseph Guillotin complete his earthly life, who proposed at the end of the 18th century a relatively humane method of executing criminals? There were persistent rumors that he himself was beheaded by the guillotine. But, this assumption has no documentary evidence. He died in 1814 from a natural cause - old age. At that time he was already 75 years old. They buried Dr. Guillotin in the largest Parisian cemetery - Père Lachaise. After his death, relatives changed their last name so that it would not remind of the device for carrying out death sentences.