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’s second president, served for 37 years from 1960 to 1997 and led one of the most prosperous periods in Institute history. At the time of his death in 1997, the Institute had reached revenues of $270 million. J. Dan Bates took office in November 1997. Bates retired in September 2014 following a 40-year career, with 17 of those as president. By the time of his retirement, revenues had reached $592 million. SwRI President and CEO Adam L. Hamilton, P.E., began his tenure as president following Bates’ retirement. Hamilton previously served as CEO of SwRI subsidiary Signature Science. Hamilton leads more than 2,600 scientists, engineers and support personnel in the conduct of more than 6,500 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 9 technical divisions.