Granville Woods: Inventor Extraordinaire

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Granville Woods was an engineer and inventor so accomplished that he was known to many as the "Black Edison." Granville Woods

Woods was born on April 23, 1856, in Columbus, Ohio. He grew up in the shadow of the Civil War was a free man, living in the North. He had little schooling when he was young, going to work when he was 10. He worked for a mechanic and found fascination with electrical engineering and railroad equipment. After 10 years of work, he went back to school, attending a New York City techincal college and specializing in electrical and mechanical engineering.

Granville Woods' telegraph

He found work in Ohio at a Washington Court House railroad company, working at pumping stations and helping shifting cars and then as an engineer at a company in Dayton. He also went to work for a time at an iron works in Springfield, Mo., before setting up his own business, the Woods Electric Company, in Cincinnati.

His work for the Ohio railroad companies gave him time to observe and think. He set up shop for himself and, in 1887, developed his first important invention, the Synchronous Railway Telegraph, a system that helped train depots and moving trains communicate. Thomas Edison also claimed ownership of this idea, and the two went to court over it. A court decided in favor of Woods, who found himself afterward with a job offer from Edison.

Furthering his lifetime interest in railroad equipment, he invented an overhead electrical system involving a "troller," a grooved metal wheel for street cars to use to conduct electricity from overhead wires.

His also got a patent was for an improved telephone transmitter, which combined the telegraph and telephone, the rights to which were bought by Alexander Graham Bell.

By the time he died, in 1910, Woods was the owner of nearly 60 patents, including some ideas that are still in use on railroads today.

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