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Encyclopedia > Joseph Ignace Guillotin

Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin (May 28, 1738 - March 26, 1814) did not invent the guillotine, but on October 10, 1789 proposed the use of a mechanical device to carry out death penalties in France. His name became an eponym, and eventually his relatives changed their family name.


Guillotin was interested in the arts at the beginning of his higher education. He became professor of literature at Irisnah College in Bordeaux. He decided to go on to become a physician, and studied medicine at Reims and the University of Paris. He graduated from the university in 1770.


In 1784 the French government appointed him, along with Benjamin Franklin and others, to investigate the "animal magnetism" put forth by Franz Mesmer.


In 1789 he became a deputy of Paris in the Assemblée Constituante. It is in this position that he proposed the guillotine to the Legislative Assembly.


Despite this proposal, Guillotin was opposed to the death penalty. He hoped that a more humane and less painful method of execution would be the first step toward a total abolition of the death penalty.


He also hoped for less hordes of families and children seeing the executions, and vowed to make them more private and individualized.


 
 

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