Wednesday, February 12, 2014

BHM2014 - Granville T. Woods

Granville Tailor Woods (April 23, 1856 – January 30, 1910) was born in Columbus, Ohio. He attended school until age 10. After that he worked in a machine shop that repaired locomotives. While working there he became interested in electricity. In 1872, at the age of 16, Woods headed west. He got a job as a fireman on a railroad and later became an engineer. During the long train rides he read all that he could about electricity.

In 1876, Woods traveled to the East Coast to attend a technical school. During the days he worked in a machine shop. Each night he attended school, studying electrical and mechanical engineering. Woods graduated in two years and then became an engineer aboard a British steamship. While working on the ship he traveled all around the world. In 1880, Woods returned to Cincinnati, once again working for a railroad company. 

During the 1880s, Woods patented many inventions. These included a furnace and boiler, automatic railroad brakes, an electrical powered incubator to hatch chicken eggs, a new type of battery and several devices that improved streetcars and electrical rail cars. Perhaps his most important inventions was a telegraph that could transmit messages to and from moving trains. That device saved many lives by reducing the number of train wrecks. 

After receiving the patent for the multiplex telegraph, he reorganized his Cincinnati company as the Woods Electric Co, but in 1892 he moved his own research operations to New York City, where he was joined by a brother, Lyates Woods, who also had several inventions of his own.

Over the course of his lifetime Granville Woods would obtain more than 50 patents for inventions. He is also the first American of African ancestry to be a mechanical and electrical engineer after the Civil War. Woods was never famous during his lifetime and is sometimes called "Ohio's forgotten inventor." He died on January 30, 1910 in New York City, having sold a number of his devices to such companies as Westinghouse, General Electric and American Engineering.


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