Over time I have received many e-mail with the same questions.
So allow me here to perhaps save you some time, by answering the most frequent of those I have received.
If you have other questions, not listed here, or just want to leave a note, you are welcome to do so.
Can I find all persons related to the guillotine on this site?
This site is in no way complete. Many names and historical information are missing. However if you have some information concerning this topic, I would be pleased to receive it.
Can I rely on the information on this site?
I have done my best to make the information correct, but history depends on the eye that see, the ear that hear and the mouth that speak.
Can I use any information from your site?
You just have to remember the law of copyright. If it is for a school project, feel free to use it, but never use any of my photos, graphics or illustrations elsewhere on the internet or in any printed form without my permission please. Limited copyright can be obtained for commercial use. Please contact me.
Can the head survive decapitation?
There has, throughout history, been several more or less scientific experiments with severed heads. It would appear that one can get a response from a head up to 30 seconds after decapitation, but whether this is a conscious reaction or not is hard to tell. Read the report.
Do you have any construction drawings or blueprints?
I have made drawings of the 1792 model. If you are interested in building your own model guillotine, take a look at the model builders page.
Why is the shape of the blade oblique?
An oblique blade cuts more like a slicing sword and is more effective than a straight edged axe which crushes the neck of its victim. The first guillotine had a straight or axe shaped blade. However during trials on cadavers it became clear that a better solution to the straight blade had to be found. Thus the idea of an oblique blade was implemented before the first real execution.
Who got the idea that the blade should be oblique?
I have heard a story about the King himself inventing the oblique blade, but I think this is a tall story surely and arises from a confusion of names. I find it hard to believe that the King was involved in a detailed construction of an execution machine. This matter was not worthy the attention of a king. I think it is a historical mix of two people around at the same time with the same name. I believe the inventor of the oblique blade was Dr Antoine Louis not King Louis XVI. Dr Louis was a surgeon, so he knew something about how knives cut. He was also leading the work in the construction of the first guillotine. He knew Tobias Schmidt who built it, and he was present when the machine was tested, first on sheep then on cadavers.
Did Doctor Guillotin invent the guillotine?
No, He did propose a machine for mechanical decapitation but if the French Guillotine can claim to have any parents, they have to be Doctor Antoine Louis who drew up the blueprints and Tobias Smith who put the first modern guillotine together. Nobody can claim to have invented mechanical decapitation as it seems to have existed since the dark ages.The important point is, the French did not invent mechanical decapitation, they merely perfected it. The lunette and the oblique blade was not seen in this combination before in history.
Did Doctor Guillotin die on the guillotine?
Contrary to popular myth Doctor Guillotin did not die on his "own machine" but rather of an anthrax in his left shoulder at the ripe old age of 75.
When was the guillotine last used in public?
17 June 1939 at the execution of Eugene Weidmann.
When was the guillotine used for the last time?
The last official use of the guillotine in France was in 1977. On the 10th of September Hamida Djandoubi was executed.