Granville T. Woods (April 23, 1856 – January 30, 1910), was an African American inventor who holds more than 60 patents for inventions. Most of his work was on trains and street cars. Woods also invented the Multiplex Telegraph, a device that sent messages between moving trains and train stations. He was born in Columbus, Ohio and died in New York.
Woods attended school in Columbus until age 10, when he then went to work with his father. They worked repairing railroad equipment and machinery.
Learn more about Granville T. Woods, free from about.com. Woods attended engineering school for two years, although it is unknown where, and found work operating a steam locomotive for the Danville and Southern Railroad. Later, Woods, along with his brother Lyates, would form the Woods Railway Telegraph company in 1884. The company manufactured and sold telephone and telegraph equipment. He later settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he worked to improve the railroad.
Woods developed several improvements to the railroad system, and was referred to by some as the "Black Edison."
In 1885, Woods patented an apparatus which was a combination of a telephone and a telegraph. The device, which he called "telegraphony", would allow a telegraph station to send voice and telegraph messages over a single wire. He sold the rights to this device to the American Bell Telephone Company. In 1887, he patented the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph, which allowed communications between train stations from moving trains. Thomas Edison later filled a claim to the ownership of this patent. In 1888, Woods manufactured a system of overhead electric conducting lines for railroads modeled after the system pioneered by Charles van Depoele, a famed inventor who had by then installed his electric railway system in thirteen U.S. cities. In 1889, he filed a patent for an improvement to the steam-boiler furnace.
Woods is sometimes credited with the invention of the electric third rail, however, many third rail systems were in place in both Europe and North America at the time Woods filed for his patent in 1901. Thomas Edison had been awarded a patent for the third rail almost a decade earlier, in 1882.
By the time of his death in 1910, Woods had made a successful career as an engineer and inventor.