The guillotine was the official method of execution in France until 1981
During the French Revolution, anatomy professor Joseph-Ignace Guillotin proposed that capital punishment in France should be carried out by decapitation on people of all classes because it was the most humane method available. Dr Antoine Louis of the Academy of Surgery designed the machine that came to be known as the guillotine after pointing out that beheading by sword was highly impractical.
The guillotine consists of a wooden frame with an angled blade that runs along grooves. After the executioner raises the weighed blade with a rope, the condemned is placed on a platform with his or her head in a round wooden frame called a lunette. The executioner lets go of the rope, allowing the blade to drop. Until abolishment of the death penalty in 1981, France continued to use the guillotine as its method of execution. Although still legal in a few other countries, the guillotine has not been used since.