Warren S. Johnson was an inventor and an entrepreneur. He was born on November 6, 1847 in Leicester Vermont. Two years later he moved with his family to Wisconsin.
As a young man, Johnson worked in a number of fields including printing, education and surveying. While a professor at State Normal School in Whitewater, Wis., he wanted to provide a more comfortable educational environment for students and eliminate the hourly interruptions from school janitors checking room temperatures. What he developed was a system for indoor temperature regulation.
Johnson was awarded a patent for the first electric room thermostat setting the stage for today’s modern building controls industry. In 1985, with investors in Milwaukee, he formed The Johnson Electric Service Company – which became Johnson Controls in 1974. Using principles still relevant today, the company made it practical to regulate temperatures room by room in homes and commercial buildings.
The quickly growing business, renamed the Johnson Service Company in 1902, brought evenly regulated temperatures to buildings around the world: the Palace of the Imperial Prince in Tokyo, Japan; the king’s palace in Madrid, Spain; the Toronto City Hall; and a factory in Warsaw, Poland.
The company settled into the Milwaukee location that today still serves as headquarters for the Building Efficiency business. Warren Johnson continued innovating, receiving patents for a steam generator to be used in “auto-carriages” and a pneumatic clock system that ran his grand tower clocks.
In 1901, with Johnson now president, the company began making steam-powered cars and trucks. Six years later introduced a line of gasoline cars featuring luxurious leather and wood interiors.
Johnson worked on inventions throughout his life, receiving more than 50 patents mostly in temperature regulation, but he also worked in the areas of batteries, automobiles, clocks and wireless telegraphy. Johnson died in Los Angeles in 1911.
Today, Johnson Controls is a Fortune 100 company and a global diversified technology and industrial leader serving customers in more than 150 countries with 162,000 employees. The company’s commitment to sustainability dates back to its 1885 roots, with Johnson’s invention of the first electric room thermostat.