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apparatus designed for carrying out executions by beheading

The guillotine was a beheading device named for its inventor, Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, a French physician who invented the device in order to permit executions to be conducted more humanely.

Portrait of Dr. Guillotin, the inventor of the Guillotine
The Scottish Maiden, an older Scottish design. This example is an exhibit at the Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh


  • As the trend in the ballots slowly made me realize that — in a manner of speaking the guillotine would fall on me — I started to feel quite dizzy. I thought that I had done my life's work and could now hope to live out my days in peace. I told the Lord with deep conviction, 'Don't do this to me. You have younger and better (candidates) who could take up this great task with a totally different energy and with different strength.' Evidently, this time he didn't listen to me.
    • Pope Benedict XVI, Comments on his election as Pope during his first audience with German pilgrims, original comments given in German.
  • There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist/Unitarian, Irish/Italian/Octogenarian/Zen Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-day Adventist, Women's Lib/Republican, Mattachine/FourSquareGospel feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme.
  • And if my thought-dreams could be seen, they'd probably put my head in a guillotine.
  • My machine will take off a head in a twinkling and the victim will feel nothing but a refreshing coolness. We cannot make too much haste, gentlemen, to allow the nation to enjoy this advantage.
    • Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, Statement to the French Assembly, 1789.
  • In the social equation, the value of a single life is nil; in the cosmic equation, it is infinite... Not only communism, but any political movement which implicitly relies on purely utilitarian ethics, must become a victim to the same fatal error. It is a fallacy as naïve as a mathematical teaser, and yet its consequences lead straight to Goya's Disasters, to the reign of the guillotine, the torture chambers of the Inquisition, or the cellars of the Lubianka.
  • The more I see of the moneyed classes, the more I understand the guillotine.
    • George Bernard Shaw, Letter, 25 Sept. 1899, in Collected Letters, vol.2, in The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations, p. 791
  • In not more than a month’s time terror will assume very violent forms, after the example of the great French Revolution; the guillotine ... will be ready for our enemies ... that remarkable invention of the French Revolution which makes man shorter by a head.
    • Leon Trotsky, as quoted in The Cheka: Lenin’s Political Police (1981) by George Leggett, p. 54

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