Woods, Granville Taylor

Woods, Granville Taylor,, 1856–1910, African-American inventor, b. Columbus, Ohio. He worked in a railroad shop as a youth, becoming a machinist and blacksmith. He subsequently worked on trains, first as a fireman, then as a train engineer; in a steel mill; and on Ironsides, a British steamer, rising to become chief engineer. In the early 1880s, after establishing his own machine shop (later Woods Electrical Co.) in Cincinnati, Woods patented an improved steam boiler and invented a system that allowed voice transmission over telegraph lines. In 1887 he patented the induction telegraph, for sending messages between trains and stations and between moving trains, improving railway safety. Other inventions include an automatic train brake, a means of powering rail cars from overhead wires, and major contributions to the development of the third rail used to power subway trains. Woods, who moved to New York City in the 1890s, sold some of his inventions to General Electric, Westinghouse, and Bell Telephone, but often had to engage in lengthy and costly legal battles to get patents.

See R. Fouché, Black Inventors in the Age of Segregation (2003); D. Head, Granville T. Woods (2013).

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