Country of origin: Switzerland
Year came to U.S.: 1849
Business: Honeywell International (1885)
Headquarters: Morristown, NJ
2021 revenue: $34.4 billion
Worldwide employment: 99,000
Ranked 105 in the 2022 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 just 16, he enlisted in the Union Army and served 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. In 1992, he was inducted into the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame.
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. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, they rededicated several of their factories to producing personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer.
Learn more about immigrant founders of Fortune 500 companies in the research report New American Fortune 500 in 2021.
Updated July 2022