Thunderstruck | Erik Larson

Summary of: Thunderstruck
By: Erik Larson


Explore the intriguing connection between a groundbreaking invention and a notorious criminal in ‘Thunderstruck’, a thrilling narrative by Erik Larson. Walk through the lives of Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of long-distance wireless communication, and Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen, a man accused of a grisly murder. As Marconi’s transatlantic wireless communication transforms the world, it plays a pivotal role in bringing justice to a criminal on the run. Alongside understanding the world of wireless technology, delve into the tangled lives, interpersonal drama, and consequence of laws governing early 20th-century Britain as seen through Larson’s gripping storytelling.

Wireless Technology and a Murderer’s Escape

The book narrates the parallel stories of the creation of wireless communication technology and the flight of a notorious murderer, Dr. Crippen.

This book tells the story of two seemingly unrelated events that occurred in the early 1900s: the invention of wireless communication technology and the escape of Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen, a notorious murderer. The book elucidates how these two seemingly unrelated incidents are intertwined.

The book’s protagonist is Crippen, who is initially portrayed as a man of respectable standing in the community. He is a doctor with expertise in homeopathy and has found success in his profession. However, his life takes a tragic turn when he marries an ambitious woman, Cora Turner, who dreams of becoming a famous singer. After Cora undergoes an invasive surgery, their marriage takes a downward spiral, and Crippen succumbs to despair.

Meanwhile, in another part of the world, Guglielmo Marconi was working on the invention of long-distance wireless communication technology. Although the idea wasn’t new, Marconi recognized its potential and pursued it relentlessly despite many failures.

The book describes the trials and tribulations that Marconi faced while trying to create a device for long-distance wireless transmission. Marconi’s invention was groundbreaking, and it paved the way for modern wireless communication.

The book also details Crippen’s escape to Canada and his eventual capture. It highlights how wireless communication technology played a crucial role in catching Crippen. As the technology developed, law enforcement agencies could track criminals with greater precision, making it more challenging for them to evade the law.

Overall, the book is a fascinating read that interweaves the stories of two crucial events that shaped the twentieth century. The author seamlessly connects the invention of wireless communication technology with Crippen’s tragic life, showing how technology and humanity are intertwined.

Crippen, Cora, and Marconi’s Ambition

Cora Crippen moves to London to pursue her dreams of show business while her husband, Crippen, turns a blind eye to her infidelity. Meanwhile, Marconi seeks to achieve his vision of transatlantic wireless communication, but his efforts are met with resistance from Oliver Lodge, who claims to have accomplished what Marconi is doing now. Nevertheless, Marconi’s demonstrations ignite global efforts to achieve long-distance wireless communication.

The Rise and Fall of Crippen and Marconi

A book summary about the intriguing life of Dr. Crippen and Marconi, their scientific endeavors, and the scandalous circumstances that led to their downfall.

In the early 1900s, miracle cures and patent medicines were the norm in basic medical treatments. However, that time was coming to an end as the government began to shut down companies that made false claims. Dr. Crippen was one of the casualties, and he found himself forced to change jobs and earn less money. Despite that, he needed a new home for him and his wife Cora, who had become increasingly antagonistic towards him. Dr. Crippen found a cheap, large house, but it was situated in a terrible location, close to a cattle farm and a prison where executions took place.

The house gave Cora and Dr. Crippen the ability to live separately but keep up appearances. However, Dr. Crippen began having an affair with his receptionist, Ethel Le Neve, and fell in love with her. Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, Marconi was building a power station with antennae that could send and receive signals across the ocean. With no engineering or scientific knowledge, Marconi didn’t listen to those who did and tried almost blindly until something worked.

Marconi had no evidence to show for his efforts but still announced his victory to the newspapers. Skepticism abounded around his claims. In another twist of events, Cora left for America, and her husband told everyone she was ill. However, Crippen and Ethel moved into their new home together, and Ethel wore Cora’s jewelry. Crippen acted as a go-between to Cora’s friends, telling them about her worsening health. Suddenly, the dreadful news arrived that Cora was dead.

This book summary details the scandalous events surrounding Dr. Crippen and Marconi’s lives, their scientific endeavors, and the fallout from their lack of evidence and dishonesty.

Deception Unraveled

The book details two stories of deception, one of a doctor who lies about his wife’s death, and another of Marconi’s false claims of wireless communication without interference. Cora Crippen’s friends investigate her mysterious death, leading to Crippen’s confession that his wife is still alive. Meanwhile, Nevil Maskelyne exposes Marconi’s lie by hijacking his demonstration and transmitting passages from Shakespeare, leading to a fall in Marconi’s stock prices and a continued effort to perfect transmission.

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