Woods, Granville

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b. 1856 Columbus, Ohio, USA
d. 1919 New York (?), USA
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African-American inventor of electrical equipment.
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He was first apprenticed in Columbus as a machinist and blacksmith. In 1872 he moved to Missouri, where he was engaged as a fireman and then engine-driver on the Iron Mountain Railroad. In his spare time he devoted much time to the study of electrical engineering. In 1878 he went to sea for two years as engineer on a British vessel. He returned to Ohio, taking up his previous occupation as engine-driver, and in 1884 he achieved his first patent, for a locomotive firebox. However, the drive towards things electrical was too strong and he set up the Woods Electric Company in Cincinnati, Ohio, to develop and market electrical inventions. Woods gained some fame as an inventor and became known as the "black Edison ". His first device, a telephone transmitter, was patented in December 1884 but faced stiff competition from similar inventions by Alexander Graham Bell and others. The following year he patented a device for transmitting messages in Morse code or by voice that was valuable enough to be bought up by the Bell Telephone Company. A stream of inventions followed, particularly for railway telegraph and electrical systems. This brought him into conflict with Edison, who was working in the same field. The US Patent Office ruled in Woods's favour; as a result of the ensuing publicity, one newspaper hailed Woods as the "greatest electrician in the world". In 1890 Woods moved to New York, where the opportunities for an electrical engineer seemed more favourable. He turned his attention to inventions that would improve the tram-car. One device enabled electric current to be transferred to the car with less friction than previously, incorporating a grooved wheel known as a "troller", whence came the popular term "trolley car".
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Further Reading
P.P.James, 1989, The Real McCoy: African-American Invention and Innovation 1619– 1930, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, pp. 94–5.
LRD

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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