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  • Writer's pictureMarvin Manigault Jr


Granville T. Woods - “Black Edison”

Known as "Black Edison," Granville Woods was an African American inventor who made key contributions to the development of the telephone, streetcar and more.

Granville T. Woods, born to free African Americans, held various engineering and industrial jobs before establishing a company to develop electrical apparatus. He registered nearly 60 patents in his lifetime, including a telephone transmitter, a trolley wheel and the multiplex telegraph (over which he defeated a lawsuit by Thomas Edison).

Woods' most important invention was the multiplex telegraph, also known as the "induction telegraph," or block system, in 1887. The device allowed men to communicate by voice over telegraph wires, ultimately helping to speed up important communications and, subsequently, preventing crucial errors such as train accidents. Woods defeated Thomas Edison's lawsuit that challenged his patent, and turned down Thomas Edison's offer to make him a partner within his firm.

After receiving the patent for the multiplex telegraph, Woods reorganized his Cincinnati company as the Woods Electric Co. In 1890, he moved his own research operations to New York City, where he was joined by a brother, Lyates Woods, who also had several inventions of his own. Woods' next most important invention was the power pick-up device in 1901, which is the basis of the so-called "third rail" currently used by electric-powered transit systems. From 1902 to 1905, he received patents for an improved air-brake system.

By the time of his death, on January 30, 1910, in New York City, Woods had invented 15 appliances for electric railways and received nearly 60 patents, having sold a number of his devices to such industrial giants as Westinghouse, General Electric, and American Engineering. Decades later, many of his other patents have been assigned to major manufacturers of electrical equipment that play a substantial role in today’s daily life.

Granville T. Woods' dozens of inventions and patents made life easier and safer for countless Americans, especially when it came to railroad travel.

Thank You Granville T. Woods, we appreciate you!

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