One of the most recognized and feared instruments of execution, the guillotine had existed in simpler forms since the 14th century. It was the French physician Joseph-Ignace Guillotin who refined the workings to a bloody efficiency, later used almost non-stop during the Reign of Terror.
The operation of the machine was simple – the victim would be bound to the bascule, a pivoting plank which was then tilted horizontally so that the victim’s head could be secured beneath the semi-circular lunette. The blade, weighted by the ram, would then be dropped, thus separating the head from the body. The head would neatly drop into a waiting basket, to be retrieved by the executioner and displayed to the bloodthirsty crowd.
Trivia & Comment
Contrary to popular belief, Dr. Guillotin did not perish under the blade of his invention. He died of pneumonia in 1814.