20 Notable Black Americans in Telecom and Technology

Born in Columbus, Ohio, on April 23, 1856, Granville T. Woods dedicated his life to developing a variety of inventions relating to the railroad industry. To some, he was known as the “Black Edison,” both great inventors of their time. Woods invented more than a dozen devices to improve electric railway cars and much more for controlling the flow of electricity. His most noted invention was a system for letting the engineer of a train know how close his train was to others. This device helped cut down accidents and collisions between trains.

Woods literally learned his skills on the job. Attending school in Columbus until age 10, he served an apprenticeship in a machine shop and learned the trades of machinist and blacksmith. His experiences later led him to settle in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he became the person most responsible for modernizing the railroad. Among other achievements, in 1887, he patented the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph, which allowed communications between train stations from moving trains. Woods’ invention made it possible for trains to communicate with the station and with other trains so they knew exactly where they were at all times. Alexander Graham Bell’s company purchased the rights to Woods’ “telegraphony,” enabling him to become a full-time inventor.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation