Updated:
Original:
Year
1977
Month Day
September 10

The guillotine falls silent

At Baumetes Prison in Marseille, France, Hamida Djandoubi, a Tunisian immigrant convicted of murder, becomes the last person executed by guillotine.

The guillotine first gained fame during the French Revolution when physician and revolutionary Joseph-Ignace Guillotin won passage of a law requiring all death sentences to be carried out by “means of a machine.” Decapitating machines had been used earlier in Ireland and England, and Guillotin and his supporters viewed these devices as more humane than other execution techniques, such as hanging or firing squad. A French decapitating machine was built and tested on cadavers, and on April 25, 1792, a highwayman became the first person in Revolutionary France to be executed by this method.

The device soon became known as the “guillotine” after its advocate, and more than 10,000 people lost their heads by guillotine during the Revolution, including Louis XVI and Mary Antoinette, the former king and queen of France.

Use of the guillotine continued in France in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the last execution by guillotine occurred in 1977. In September 1981, France outlawed capital punishment altogether, thus abandoning the guillotine forever. There is a museum dedicated to the guillotine in Liden, Sweden.

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