Reservedly advocated as a humane killing device by Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin during the 18th century, the guillotine executed people en masse during the French Revolution; France discontinued its use after 1977. The mechanism of death evoked fear and altered public sentiment about execution. During that time, many viewed capital punishment as a grand, public spectacle, but death by guillotine was a quicker, less-involved process than hanging or traditional beheading at the blade of an ax.
French Revolution participants and other crowds who witnessed guillotine executions had mixed reactions to what they saw when the blade fell. Some spectators questioned the so-called painless contraption of death, while others demanded the blood and gore of previous practices. Either way, the guillotine's widespread use became infamous as a historical instrument of allegedly merciful fatality.
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