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When the former Jesuit priest Dr Joseph Ignace Guillotin invented his "humane" beheading machine, little did he know that his name would become synonymous with one of the world's most famous killing machines, or that it would be used so willingly during the French Revolution. He believed that his quick and apparently painless device would be the most humane way to kill convicts before their bodies were used for medical research.

This and other intriguing tales of medical history can be found at You can take timeline tours of birth, death, drugs, hospitals, plagues, surgery and technology which cover everything from the Hippocratic Oath to the Human Genome Project.

History World is the brainchild of former University Challenge question master Bamber Gascoigne, who launched the free website last year. The extensive medical history strand has been written by historian Carole Reeves with support from the Wellcome Centre for the History of Medicine.

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