French physician. Born 1738, died 1814.
A regent of the College of Medicine in Paris, he also served as Parisian deputy in the Estates-General, where he concerned himself especially with issues of a medical nature (although he did author a brochure in 1788, under the pseudonym Pétition des six Corps, demanding more equal representation of the Third Estate).
On December 1, 1789, the Estates-General deliberated on two separate proposals regarding capital punishment. The second of these, proposed by Guillotin, proposed that execution be carried out through decapitation by a machine - decapitation no longer being a privilege of the nobility. Among the arguments in favour of this method was that it should be swift and painless.
Guillotin's proposal won through, and on October 6, 1791, decapitation was made a part of the penal code. The means for such decapitation was referred to a committee, directed by Doctor Antoine Louis, secretary to the Academy of Surgeons. A German, Schmidt by name, was employed to build a prototype device for each department.
The first guillotine was placed in the Place de Gréve, for use in the execution of a highwayman, Pelletier, on April 25, 1792.
The Terror brought notoriety to the guillotine. Guillotin himself was imprisoned for the duration of the Terror. After his release, he went on to found the Academie de Medicine.