While Thomas Edison is known as the 'great inventor', Granville T. Woods not only secured at least 60 patents for his own work during his lifetime, he also successfully challenged a patent infringement claim by Edison for an invention that laid the groundwork to make transportation systems safer.
Born in Columbus, Ohio in the mid-1800s, to a free African-American father and part Native American mother, Granville T. Woods displayed ingenuity at a young age.
Compelled to end his formal education at age 10 to help support his family financially, he became an apprentice to a machinist. It was in that role that Woods acquired the skills to repair complex machinery.
Woods spent a considerable amount of his young career working in transportation-related fields, including as an engineer aboard a British-based steamship. His high level of proficiency paved the way for him to become the chief engineer within two years.
However, when it became apparent he had reached a glass ceiling in that setting, Woods established his own electrical shop, focusing on inventions that improved rail travel safety.
Among the inventions credited to Woods are the overhead electric power lines to power trains and telegraph systems to facilitate communication between moving trains in order to avoid collisions--the invention which prompted Edison to sue Woods, albeit unsuccessfully.
Subsequently, Woods rebuffed Edison's offer to join his company, preferring to remain independent and maintain autonomy over his own creations.
It turned out to be a smart move for Woods, as he eventually sold his inventions to some notable American companies, including General Electric and the American Bell Telephone Company (now known as AT&T).
It's no wonder Granville T. Woods is referred to the "Black Edison". Perhaps, we should be calling Edison the 'mainstream Granville T. Woods".