A Brief History of SwRI

video teleconference center

SwRI began operations in 1947 in the historic "Cable House" and other structures on the former Cable Ranch, west of San Antonio.

Southwest Research Institute is the realization of a Texas wildcatter's dream. Thomas Baker Slick Jr., an oilman-rancher-philanthropist, founded SwRI in 1947. Slick's vision of an internationally known scientific research center in San Antonio, Texas, took root with his donation of a ranchland site west of the city -- where Institute operations are still carried out. Slick challenged a group of pioneer scientists and engineers from around the nation to move to the new center to seek revolutionary advancements in many areas by developing and applying technology.

Harold Vagtborg, a highly regarded research administrator, accepted Slick's invitation to become president in 1948. Vagtborg helped lead efforts in automotive testing, environmental research, and radio direction finding, which have remained important areas of research. Gross revenues exceeded $4.5 million in 1957. In 1959, Martin Goland assumed SwRI leadership as president, guiding the organization through many years of rapid growth. The Institute's research program expanded to include microencapsulation, space research, field services for the oil and gas industry, ocean engineering, nondestructive testing, emissions and materials research, and much more.

Goland, SwRI president for 37 years, died in 1997, having led one of the most prosperous periods in Institute history. At the time of his death, the Institute had reached gross revenues of $270 million. Today's staff is led by President J. Dan Bates, who took office in November 1997. Bates leads more than 2,973 scientists, engineers, and support personnel in the conduct of nearly 2,000 nationally and internationally sponsored projects each year.


aerial photo of Southwest Research Institute

The SwRI staff conducts fundamental and applied research in more than 2 million square feet of laboratories, workshops, and offices in San Antonio. SwRI specializes in the creation and transfer of technology in engineering and the physical sciences.

Benefiting government, industry and the public through innovative science and technology
Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is a multidisciplinary, independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organization with 11 technical divisions.