Granville T. Woods

Granville T. Woods

On this date in 1856, Granville T. Woods was born in Columbus, Ohio.

He was an African American businessman and inventor. Woods began work in a machine shop at age ten. Though largely self-taught, he studied electrical and mechanical engineering from 1876 to 1878. After that he worked on a British steamer, then became an engineer on a railroad based in Cincinnati, where he settled around 1880. Woods received his first patent in 1884 for a steam boiler furnace. In 1885 he invented a system called telegraphony, which allowed telegraph lines to carry voice signals.

In 1887 he patented the induction telegraph for sending messages to and from moving trains. Other inventions for electric railways included electromechanical and electromagnetic brakes, a wheeled trolley for drawing power for streetcars from an overhead wires and a safety cutout to prevent injury from accidental contact with overhead wires. For a while he manufactured and sold his inventions through the Woods Electric Company, but he later sold his patent rights to the General Electric Company.