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In the late 1700s, Dr Ignace Guillotin thought all criminals should be equal in death. It was not the case at the time. Noblemen were quickly sent to their graves with the swift swipe of a sword. The sword was then broken. Common felons were put on a wheel and their bones were broken until they died; a slow tortuous affair. It was too expensive to kill them all with swords. Plus the executioner admitted that he couldn’t stand the sight of all that blood.

A decapitation devise was clearly the answer. Tobias Schmidt, an alcoholic piano maker, was selected to produce the mechanism. It was tested on sheep and then on humans. The blade was crescent shaped and botched the job. King Louis XVI pointed out that the blade should be shaped like a triangle. The new design’s first victim was a man who had stolen a wallet and knifed the owner. King Louis himself suffered the same fate nine months later after being ousted by the French Revolution.


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