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Granville T. Woods was an inventor who worked on over 50 inventions in his lifetime. His expertise in the electrical realm gained him the nickname the “Black Edison.”

Granville Tailer Woods was born April 23, 1856 in Columbus, Ohio to free parents. As a young boy, Woods began working to support his poor family. In his teens, he reportedly worked as an apprentice for a machinist, but accounts vary on much of Woods’ early life.

As written by some historians, Woods also studied engineering and electricity for a span of two years in New York while working odd jobs as a railroad engineer and a British ship engineer among other positions. He returned to Ohio and opened up his machine shop in 1880 in the city of Cincinnati.

Over the years, he began tinkering with inventions and in 1887; his “Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph” or “Inductor Telegraph” allowed moving trains to communicate with train depots and conductors to avoid collisions. He also invented an overhead electrical wire system to power locomotives.

Thomas Edison attempted to put a claim on the telegraph system and another of Woods’ inventions, losing the patent battle twice in court. The white inventor asked Woods to become a partner in his company, to which Woods declined. In some reports, this is how Woods obtained the “Black Edison” nickname.

Woods was said to have invented or produced between 40 to 60 patents, including improvements to the air brake and steam boiler furnace among them.

PHOTO: Public Domain

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