Forget Edison, forget Bell the greatest electrical inventor and engineer was….

Granville Tailer Woods 1856 – 1910

Yes you did read the title correctly; Granville T. Woods was an extraordinary engineer and inventor, often referred to as the ‘Black Edison’ but much more intelligent and honourable than Edison who tried to steal his patents (see below). Not only did he patent the ‘Overhead Tram Cabling System’ (still used to this day),  a safer ‘Steam Boiler System’, a complete ‘Electric Railway System for Coney Island’ and the ‘Sychronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph’ are just a few of this remarkable mans astonishing inventions, for those who label him the Black Edison, I suspect he would probably see this as an insult.

Born in Columbus, Ohio, on April 23, 1856, Woods received little schooling as a young man and, in his early teens, took up a variety of jobs, including as a railroad engineer in a railroad machine shop, as an engineer on a British ship, in a steel mill, and as a railroad worker. From 1876 to 1878, Woods lived in New York City, taking courses in engineering and electricity — a subject that he realized, early on, held the key to the future.

During this period, while traveling between Washington Court House and Dayton, Woods began to form ideas for what would later be credited as his most important invention: the ‘Inductor Telegraph’. He worked in the area until the spring of 1880 and then moved to Cincinnati.

In 1885 Woods began working on what he called ‘Telegraphony,’ (Sychronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph’) a device that allowed users to switch between two forms of communication, voice or Morse code, to transmit messages. Based on ‘Telegraphony’Woods invented the ‘Induction Telegraph’ in 1887.

His success led to law suits filed by Thomas Edison, who sued Granville Woods claiming that he was the first inventor of the Multiplex Telegraph. Granville Woods eventually won, but Edison didn’t give up easily when he wanted something.

Trying to win Granville Woods over, and his inventions, Edison offered Granville Woods a prominent position in the engineering department of Edison Electric Light Company in New York as he did with Lewis Howard Latimer, who invented the first long life light bulb but never got the credit:

The very first electric light bulb was invented by Thomas Edison.  But Edison’s bulb had serious problems.  It burned out quickly and was easily damaged.  Lewis Latimer, a Black American, invented the first long life bulb.  Latimer patented it in 1881.  Later Edison asked Latimer to join the team of inventors known as “The Edison Pioneers.”

Black History Bootleg

Granville T. Woods, preferring his independence, declined. As I said earlier Edison was not a decent honourable man and believed a court would award him Woods patents simply because he was White and Woods was Black. It does make you realise how he gained the Light Filament invention from Lewis Howard Latimer.

He sold his ‘Inductor Telegraph’ invention to a white man – Alexander Graham Bell (now we’ve heard of him), the sale helped Woods to gain independence and finance himself as an inventor, setting up the Woods Electric Co.

Woods’s second most important invention (after his Telegraphy patents) was the power pick-up device in 1901, which is the basis of the so-called ‘third rail’ currently used by electric-powered transit systems to this day.

Also from 1902 to 1905, he received patents for safety improvements to GeorgeWestinghouse’s air-brake system, which became an integral part of the safety of all underground metro systems around the world.

Looking back on his communications patents one can only stand in awe of the world monster he created. If we look at his earlier patent the ‘Inductor Telegraph’ this is basically the ‘Morse Code Machine’, how many lives has that saved. His later patent the ‘Sychronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph’ was a combination of telegraph and telephone he called it ‘Telegraphony’. Originally designed to make railways safer (something he was obsessed with), it’s impact on the world and in the development of modern communication inventions was astonishing.

Simple really, for a man of his genius

Read More

Granville T. Woods in Black History Bootleg

Alexander Graham Bell in Wikipedia

Thomas Edison in Thought Co

Edison Electric Light Company in New York – Wikipedia

Lewis Howard Latimer in Black History Bootleg

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