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Black Inventors and Innovators - Granville Woods

Updated on March 14, 2011


Granville Woods was born April 23, 1856 in Columbus, Ohio and died January 30, 1910 in New York, New York.  Woods who was referred to as the “Black Thomas Edison” had over 60 patents for inventions most of which were related to street cars and the railroad industry. 

By the age of 10 Woods was repairing railroad equipment and machinery in a machine shop. Because of the work that he was doing Woods became intrigued by electricity and how it worked, Woods learned about every piece of machinery in the shop and how the different pieces of equipment worked together.  This interest would lead to Woods’ study engineering. 

After studying engineering, Woods found work as an engineer on a steamship and then as a driver on a steam locomotive.  Even though Woods was incredible skilled and knowledgeable he found it difficult to find work or to be promoted because he was Black.  Because of this difficulty and his frustration Woods and his brother formed their own company; Woods Railway Telegraph Company which manufactured and sold telephone, telegraph and electrical equipment.

With this new company came the first inventions. A few of the inventions or improvements were an improved steam boiler furnace, an improved telephone transmitter and an apparatus which was a combination of a telephone and a telegraph. This device was called a telegraphony and allowed a telegraph station to send both voice and telegraph messages over a single wire.  Another device that Woods invented allowed messages to be sent from moving trains and railway stations. This would let dispatchers know the location of each train and in turn decreased railway accidents.

When it came to trains and railway systems Woods was able to use his electrical knowledge to help in his inventions.  Woods created a method to supply electricity to trains with batteries or exposed wire making safer travel for trains. Woods also developed the third rail so that a train could receive more electricity a concept that is still used with subways today.

Woods constantly had to defend his inventions because other inventors would claim his work.  Even Thomas Edison made a claim against Woods.  However Woods was able to defend himself multiple times and prove that he was the actual inventor.  Finally Edison figured it would be better to work with Woods instead of against him and he brought Woods into the Edison Company.

Against adversity Woods seemed to continue to strive and was continually committed to his work. Woods is a true inspiration.



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    • Triplet Mom profile image

      Triplet Mom 6 years ago from West Coast

      Thanks Hello Hello!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      Abither wonderful hub. It makes me always boiling mad that people can't think that they could been born black. Nobody gets asked how we want to be born?