BY WALTER OPINDE
Granville T. Woods was an African-American inventor and electrical engineer who held up to more than 50 patents. Woods is acknowledged by historians as the first American from the black community to be an electrical and mechanical engineer just a period after the Civil War. He was acquired most of his knowledge through self-learning, where he mostly concentrated on studying the operations of streetcars and trains. One of Granville’s notable inventions was the Multiplex Telegraph, in 1887, which was a device that could send messages between the moving trains and different train stations (the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph). His engineering works and inventions are attributed to the 19th century’s safer and better transportation systems across different cities in the United States.
Granville Woods was born on 23rd April, 1856, in Columbus, Ohio. He attended school in Columbus and dropped when he was merely ten years of age, as was common among children of his time. Upon his school dropout, he got employment at a mechanic’s shop where he developed a great interest in the railroad equipment. Being an avid reader and enthusiastic learner, Woods focused all his attention and spare time on mastering the art and knowledge of electrical engineering.
At the age of 20 years old, in 1976, after realizing the importance of continuing with his education, Woods enrolled in a technical college where he would train for two academic years in mechanical and electrical engineering. After his graduation in 1978, there were no looming job prospects in Ohio; hence he had to work as an engineer in the British Steamer, which presented him with the opportunity to travel globally to different countries. Eventually, Granville returned and settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he founded his Electrical Company after making a decision to be an independent entrepreneur because he could not find a permanent or consistent job.
Granville later invented a system for overhead electric conduction, which was essential in powering locomotives. Afterwards, in 1889, he filed his novel patent for an enhanced steam-boiler furnace. He competed with other prominent inventors of his time, such as Thomas Edison who claimed the idea behind the multiplex telegraph.
Granville sold a number of ideas and his inventions to several companies, some of which included the General Electric Company and the American Bell Telephone Company. Towards the time of his demise, on 30th January, 1910, Mr. Woods had received approximately sixty patents, which were assigned to major electrical and mechanical manufacturers.
Read more of the story via: https://www.biography.com/people/granville-t-woods-9536481
- Rayvon Fouche (2003-09-10).Black Inventors in the Age of Segregation: Granville T. Woods, Lewis H. Latimer, and Shelby J. Davidson. The Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Gary L. Frost, “Granville T. Woods”, in Henry Louis Gates and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds., African American Lives.New York: Oxford University Press, 2004; pg. 910.
- David L. Head, Granville T. Woods: African-American Communications and Transportation Pioneer.Pittsburgh, PA: RoseDog Books, 2013.