The Guillotine: Meant to Be Humane But Failed Miserably
Note: Some may find the content of this article disturbing so I am including a fair warning if you don't have a strong stomach you may want to stop reading here. Would you believe that the Guillotine was actually developed as a more humane way of putting criminals to death?
One would not think that a machine designed to send a sharp blade down a wooden trail chopping a human beings head off as it lands would be a humane way of ending one's life. It was however a bit more humane than the method that was used previously was a man with an ax chopping off the subjects head. Because a human being cannot be completely accurate and because it would sometimes take more than one swing to get the job done they thought a more precise method would be much better.
I guess this tells you just how compassionate they were back in the 1700s. The idea for the guillotine was actually conceived by Dr. Joseph Guillotin. For some reason an e was added to the end of machine that bore his name. He had the idea for the machine but the machine was actually designed and built by another man by the name of Antione Lewis.
The machine was created in 1789. Head chopping seemed to be a big thing back in the earlier days as the Guillotin was not even the first such device of its kind. Similar yet perhaps less precise machines had actually been in use for centuries before that in countries such as England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and Persia.
The reason that civilized men of those eras thought that chopping off one's head was so humane was because they believed that once one's head was severed the person would experience and instant and painless death. Probably one of the reasons it is no longer in use today is because it was not. Aside from being a gory and creepy way of killing someone, not that there is any way to kill someone that is not creepy the method did not provide and instant death.
Back then when a punishment of death was carried out in a town it was more or less a public event. Everyone in town would come out to see it occur. Actually I don't know if everyone would but certainly it was done in a public place and citizens were welcome to watch. I have never understood why someone would want to watch such a thing, but perhaps someone whose family member was a victim of the person being put might feel some sense of relief watching the grizzly act being carried out.
Because people were watching the event there started to be reports and tellings of the eyes of the person who was just decapitated still moving and in fact blinking. Some accounts even claimed that the person was smiling or even frowning, and still seemed to respond when their name was called. Some even looked as if they were trying to talk. Was this purely from their imagination? No it was not.
Those people probably actually saw what they claimed to have seen. It has been proven in more recent years that a head severed from the body can actually remain conscious for as long as 15 seconds. This is caused by Phosphates stored in the cerebral enzymes in the brain. However after the 15 seconds are up the brain starts to suffer from a lack of oxygen and other things that are delivered to it via the bloodstream and without that the brain can survive no longer. Obviously although intended to be humane the guillotine was far from it.