By Fritz Ruebeck, Classic Automation LLC
In 1851, George Taylor and David Kendall began making thermometers
and barometers in Rochester, New York. Their firm was called Kendall
and Taylor and started with a single rented room above the Post Drug
Store at 4 Exchange Street.
David (at age 35) brought technical expertise to the business as
his father had founded a thermometer company, possibly the first in the
US, in 1820 in New Lebanon, NY. George was a brilliant young man of only
19 that brought a flair for selling and marketing. Although their
skills complemented each other, after only 2 years the partnership
ended. David then went off on his own to manufacture barometers.
The original business was focused only on the weather. It quickly
expanded into other applications in 1855 with mantel, churn, distillers’
and brewers’ thermometers; starting Taylor’s long legacy serving the
Frank Taylor, George’s brother had his own thermometer company
with partner and cousin Hamlet Richardson. The businesses merged in
1871. Then in 1872, Hamlet left the business for health reasons and it
was renamed Taylor Bros. It was organized as a partnership until 1890
when it was incorporated and became Taylor Bros. Corporation.
In 1904 the company announced the purchase of land and plans to build a
much larger factory far from downtown Rochester on Ames Street. They
began operations at the new plant in 1906 and would remain there until
1992. Today the site has gone through extensive environmental
remediation required after years of thermometer production. It is now
awaiting re-birth as a brown-field site.
Even in its early years, Taylor had been involved in many acquisitions
including a controls company called Davis & Roesch Temperature
Controlling Company. In 1907, Taylor consolidated and reorganized itself
into Taylor Instrument Companies and began using the trade name Tycos.
This trade name was used exclusively until 1932 in which the Taylor name
was then used.
The company had a long history of technical innovation and investment.
This commitment was evident early in its history when it started what is
believed to be the first R&D department in the American instrument
industry in 1911.
Taylor also had a major impact on America’s success in both world wars.
In WW I, it made about 99% of all altitude barometers (altimeters) used
by the US. They also made airplane stratascopes, inclinometers, and
oxygen systems for pilots. The war also resulted in a large operation
making compasses that would continue for many years.
In WW II, Taylor was the prime process instrumentation contractor for
the Manhattan Project’s gaseous diffusion plant. “The designing and
procurement of process control instruments for the Gaseous Diffusion
Plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee marked a major milestone in industrial
instrumentation. Taylor was chosen as the prime contractor for this
undertaking and within an amazingly short time had designed,
manufactured and delivered 43 carloads of unbelievably precise
instruments for the processing of uranium.” Policy Guide for Taylor,
Perhaps Taylor’s most remembered contribution to automation occurred in
1941, when two Taylor employees John Ziegler and Nathanial Nichols
developed a defined method for tuning controllers. They presented their
method in a paper they gave to an ASME meeting that year. Their method
was linked to the development and success of the Fullscope 100, the
first controller with true PID functionality.
Taylor’s more modern era was marked by mergers and continued
technological innovation. In 1968, Taylor Instruments merged with Ritter
Pfaudler Corp. a Rochester-based manufacturer of medical, dental and
water processing equipment and supplies. This resulted in a holding
company called Sybron Corp
That same year they introduced the first commercially available batch
control language know as Taylor Advanced Batch Language (TABL). It was
the first language that let users program their own batches. In 1972,
the term “unit relativity” – a technique for gaining efficiencies in
both batch engineering and computer memory usage - was coined by Taylor
In 1973, Taylor was the first to introduce real-time programming to the
control industry through an adaptation of BASIC known as POL (Process
Oriented Language) first used on the Taylor 1010 and MOD 3000 control
systems. In 1980, Taylor introduced the MOD 30 panel controller and
instrumentation system. It then introduced the MOD 300 distributed
control system in 1984 with the first globally distributed relational
In 1983, Combustion Engineering acquired Taylor Instruments from Sybron.
Then in 1987, the Taylor operations were integrated with AccuRay
headquartered in Columbus, OH, a flat-sheet measurement and control
company that was purchased by Combustion Engineering.
The pace of change quickened when ABB (Asea Brown Boveri) acquired
Combustion Engineering in a deal announced in 1989 and completed in
1990. Taylor was further integrated into the related operations of its
new parent. The Taylor MOD 300 systems division that had integrated with
the AccuRay business, now was also integrated with the operations
related to the Asea Master system in Vasteras, Sweden. The Taylor
instrumentation division was eventually merged with the instrument and
water meter business of Kent from the UK. The new instrumentation
division went through several names such as ABB Kent-Taylor and ABB
The Taylor part of ABB continued its tradition of batch innovation with
the launch of Batch 300 in 1991 as the first S88.01 batch-oriented
product. In 1994 it introduced the Production Data Log as the first
batch-oriented historical data application.
In 1992, Advant technology based on HP Unix workstations was introduced
for the MOD 300 system. The MOD 300 distributed control system has
continued to evolve and now includes some features of ABB’s new offering
known as Industrial IT.
The Taylor people and technology have now been completely integrated
into ABB operations. This process accelerated after the purchase of
Elsag Bailey in 1999. This deal brought four more distributed control
systems and many overlapping instruments to the ABB product line with
the resulting need for consolidation. The US headquarters were soon
moved to Wickliffe, OH, and instrumentation manufacturing went to
About the Author
Fritz Ruebeck is the founder of Classic Automation. He worked for
the Taylor related parts of Combustion Engineering and ABB from
1989-2002 in marketing and service management.
“ 100 Years of Process Automation.” Control, December 1999, Vol XII No.12.
“ABB in Batch Processing Industries.” ABB, Publication 3BUS092041R0001, 1995.
Buckley, George J. “Modern Control Started with the
Ziegler-Nichols Tuning” Control Engineering, October , 1990 volume 37,
Merrill, Arch “Graduated by Years from 0 to 100.” Taylor Instrument Companies, Rochester, NY, 1951.
“Policy Guide for Taylor Instruments.” Taylor Instrument Companies, 1953.