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Willis Gille


(1905 - 1970) The first inductee into the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame, he is honored for his contributions in the field of electronic control mechanisms. An inventive genius, Gille was awarded more than eighty-five United States patents. Among his contributions to the field of electrical control mechanisms is the aircraft industry’s first electronic automatic pilot, installed in over 30,000 bombers during World War II. His inventions, beginning with a silent solenoid, helped the Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Company , now Honeywell, Inc., grow from a small heat regulator company into one of America’s leading diversified industrial giants.

Early in his career, while assigned responsibility for the design of coils and transformers in standard and odd voltages and frequencies, he developed an awareness of the unsolved problems in the automatic control industry, and began to create original solutions. He conceived a means of adapting electronic temperature control principles to the automatic control of flight in 1941. He was able to develop a three axis autopilot beginning in the middle of May 1941 to a point in early December 1941 where the equipment was being supplied to the military for use in bombers, where human lives depend upon proper operation of the equipment. Gille, within little over a six month period, brought the autopilot from the stage of conception to the state of large scale production. This led to the establishment of Honeywell’s Aeronautical Division. After World War II ended, he and others at Honeywell adapted the airplane autopilot for use as a gun-stabilizing system on an Army tank. No matter how uneven the terrain, the tank’s gun would stay level and on target.

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