Alexander Miles
  Elijah McCoy
  Lewis Latimer
  Jan Ernst Matzeliger
Granville T. Woods
  George Washington Carver
  Madam C. J. Walker
  Garrett Morgan
  Dr. Charles Richard Drew
  Otis Boykin
  James E. West
  Dr. Patricia Bath
  Lonnie G. Johnson
  Mark Dean

Famous African American Inventors

© Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture/NYPL/Science Source

Granville T. Woods


By enabling trains to communicate with each other, Woods made railways much safer.

Background: Woods was born in Columbus, Ohio. He showed an interest in mechanics at an early age. As a young man, Woods worked as a railroad worker and engineer, and began thinking up ideas to improve the industry.

Invention: Woods's most notable invention was for a type of communication called the induction telegraph system. The system allowed moving trains to communicate, helping them avoid collisions and dangers on the tracks. It also helped dispatchers locate trains. Woods held nearly 60 patents throughout his life. Many of these inventions were for electric railways. The third rail, which uses electricity to pull trains forward, was one of his inventions and is still widely used today. Woods also improved the automatic air brake used by railroad cars.

Did You Know? Due to his great success, Woods formed his own company, the Woods Electric Company.