Alfred P. Southwick

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Dr. Alfred P. Southwick (1826 – 1898), was a dentist from Buffalo, New York. He is credited with inventing the first electric chair as a method of execution. Dr. Southwick is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York, USA.[1]

The Electric Chair[edit]

In 1881, Dr. Alfred Southwick witnessed an intoxicated man touch a live electric generator. Given that the man died so quickly, Dr. Southwick concluded that electricity could be used as an alternative to hanging for executions. As Southwick was a dentist who was accustomed to performing procedures on subjects in chairs, his device for electrical execution appeared in the form of an "electric chair."

Dr. Southwick worked with David B. Hill, the governor of New York State to help pass laws making execution by electricity legal. Southwick also served on the state's Electrical Death Commission which between 1888 and 1889 recommended that electrocution be made a valid form of Capital Punishment. The first law allowing the use of electrocution went into effect January 1, 1889.[2]

On August 6, 1890, William Kemmler was executed by electrocution. Southwick was present and is reported to have said "There is the culmination of ten years work and study! We live in a higher civilization from this day.”[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^[dead link]
  2. ^ Alfred P. Southwick, MDS, DDS: dental practitioner...[J Hist Dent. 2000] - PubMed Result
  3. ^ The Electric Chair

External links[edit]