On the eve of 1959, the US-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, instead of welcoming in what might have been his 25th year in power, spent the evening hurriedly packing his bags and preparing to flee to the Dominican Republic. A guerrilla army of no more than 2,000 fighters had effectively routed his government's security forces and looked set to take control of the country.
The device was perfected - though not invented- by Doctor Joseph Ignace Guillotin (1738 - 1814). The 'e' at the end of the noun is a later, British, addition. Ironically, he belonged to a movement seeking to abolish capital punishment altogether. Guillotine-like implements were used on delinquents from the nobility in Germany, Italy, Scotland and Persia long before the good doctor's era. Guillotin and German engineer and harpsichord maker, Tobias Schmidt, improved and industrialized it.