15. Granville T. Woods (1856–1910)

Notable inventions: Telegraphony, trolley conducting system, third brake, and improved air brake

The self-taught inventor managed to combine the telephone and telegraph to form the telegraphony, a system used to send voice and telegraph messages over a single wire. His other most notable invention was a detection system that informed train engineers of how close their trains were to collision. He also received credit from a few historians for inventing the third rail, which Thomas Edison was awarded a patent for 10 years earlier in 1882. Now we know why they referred to him as the “Black Edison.”