Granville Tailer Woods was the first African-American to become a mechanical and electrical engineer. He was also an inventor who held more than 60 patents.
Born on April 23, 1856 in Columbus, Ohio to poor parents, his family could not initially afford to send him to college. But he still was able to the needed skills to become a machinist and blacksmith when he worked as an apprentice in a local machine shop.
Later, he was able to attend college and studied mechanical and electrical engineering there. Upon graduation, he became an entrepreneur and worked as an electrical engineer and inventor. He started out working in Ohio, but in 1892 he moved his facilities to New York City.
His work is credited for making publication transportation systems throughout the United States safer and better. For example, he invented and patented tunnel construction for the electric railroad system. Another one of his notable inventions was an improved telephone transmitter that combined the telephone and telegraph. He later sold the patents and rights to this device to the American Bell Telephone Company, which was later acquired by AT&T.
He also invented the multiplex telegraph. Thomas Edison, had been working on a similar invention and once tried to claim that he was the original creator of it. But when Edison took Woods to court over the matter, he was defeated and Woods was awarded the patent.
Edison was not the only one who tried to claim Woods' inventions as his own, so he often had difficulties in enjoying his success.
Sadly, he died on January 30, 1910 in New York City. Today, few people talk about his contributions, and his legacy is hardly even mentioned in public school textbooks.