Who was Joseph-Ignace Guillotin?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Although other forms of "decapitation machines" were in existence before the late 18th century, the device named after Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin (1738-1814) became one of the most recognizable symbols of the French Revolution. A respected doctor who opposed the death penalty and advocated medical reform, Guillotin served on a committee organized to search for a new form of humane execution. The guillotine was the result. Though not specifically invented or constructed by Guillotin, the guillotine (whose prototype was actually designed by the King's physician, Antoine Louis, and built by German "engineer" Tobias Schmidt) became forever associated with Guillotin. For the doctor and his family,

The association with the guillotine so embarrassed Dr. Guillotin's family that they petitioned the French government to rename it; when the government refused, they instead changed their own family name.  (Wikipedia, Joseph-Ignace Guillotin)


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