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Immigrant Entrepreneur Hall of Fame: Albert Butz

Country of origin: Switzerland

Year came to U.S.: 1849

Honeywell websiteBusiness: Honeywell International (1885)

Headquarters: Morristown, NJ

2015 revenue: $38.6 billion

U.S. employment: 49,000

Ranked 74 in the 2015 Fortune 500


  • Albert Butz invented the thermostat, which created a whole new industry.
  • He was issued 13 patents in his lifetime.


Albert Butz was a prolific inventor and the father of the modern automated control industry. He founded the Butz Thermo-Electric Regulator Company that, through growth, acquisition and merger, became today’s Honeywell International a multi-billion-dollar company employing more than 100,000 worldwide.

Albert Butz came from Switzerland with his family in 1857 at eight years old. When he was 16, he enlisted in the Union Army, serving in the Wisconsin 47th Infantry. As an adult, he was an avid inventor, and over the course of his lifetime he accumulated 13 patents. The most famous was the thermo-electric damper regulator and alarm (the precursor to the modern thermostat).

Butz created the damper regulator and alarm to solve the problem of homeowners having to go to their cellars and open and close the damper on coal-fired furnaces by hand. Nothing like this had previously existed. The automated feedback at the core of this invention became the basis for the science of automated controls, which has transformed modern industry.

The company Butz founded to commercialize his invention was called the Butz Thermo-Electric Regulator Company. Over time it grew and was involved in a number of acquisitions and mergers resulting in the company now known as Honeywell International.

Today, Honeywell invents and manufactures technologies to address a variety of challenges such as safety, security and energy. In 2015, Fortune named Honeywell the third Most Admired electronics company in the world.

Updated August 2016

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