Term: Johnson, Warren S. 1847 - 1911
inventor; entrepreneur; founded Johnson Controls, Inc., a Fortune 100 company based in Glendale, Wisconsin. Johnson was born in Leicester, Vermont, on November 6, 1847. His family moved to Wisconsin in 1849 and lived in various locations; during his childhod, the Johnson family farm was located three miles west of Downsville, near the intersection of STH 72 and an unnamed town road.
A self-taught man, Johnson worked as a printer, a school principal in Menomonie, and as the New Lisbon Superintendent of Schools. In 1872-1873, Johnson, at the age of 25, was Dunn County Superintendent of Schools and a year later became Dunn County Surveyor, a position he held until 1875. In 1876 he became a professor at the State Normal School in Whitewater. While there, he developed a system of indoor temperature regulation that became the basis for the Johnson Electric Service Company (renamed Johnson Controls, Inc. in 1974), a business he founded with financier William Plankinton in Milwaukee in 1885. Johnson served as secretary, treasurer, general manager, and vice president of the company at varying times until 1901, when he was named president.
During his lifetime, Johnson received over fifty patents, mostly in regard to temperature regulation. However, his inventions came in a wide variety of fields including storage batteries, tower clocks, wireless telegraphy, and automobiles.
Johnson died of Bright's disease on December 5, 1911, in Los Angeles, California, and is buried in the Lower Weston Cemetery, less than one mile from the former Johnson farm property near Downsville.
[Source: Johnson Controls Archives; personal communication from John Russell, Dunn Co. historian]