Gulf Research Laboratories

around 1933
around 1986
Birth Place
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America
Current Place
Harmar Township, Pennsylvania, United States of America


Gulf Oil was founded in 1933 in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, but moved to its current location in Harmar Township in 1935. For many decades it was one of the leading industrial research centers in the world, with labs encompassing research ranging from petroleum, chemical, polymers, refining to even nuclear applications thanks to a three million volt Van de Graaff particle accelerator. It also served for a time as the site of geophysics research by two-time winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, John Bardeen. Products developed in its labs included the airborne magnetometer, the marsh buggy, No-Nox gasoline, Gulf Spray pesticide, and processes for the hydrodesulfurization of sour crude oil and shale oil extraction. For at least the first 20 years of its existence it was the ‘most highly integrated of all the petroleum research laboratories in the world’. By 1955, it employed over 1,200, and by the late 1970s, it employed 1,500. By 1985, when Gulf Oil was acquired by Chevron Oil which maintained its own research facilities in Richmond, California, the complex had grown to 85 acres (340,000 m2) with 54 multi-story lab buildings and employed nearly 2,000 scientists and engineers with an annual operation budget of over $100 million. The University of Pittsburgh proposed that it would be able to maintain and operate the facility in order to keep the center open for the benefit of the region. Gulf and Chevron agreed to the university's proposal and donated the site, valued at $100 million including the fully furnished and equipped laboratories, a computer telecommunications center, an executive office building, and unique facilities such as large cold room containing a wind tunnel. Chevron also added a $3 million start up grant, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania added a $3 million matching grant for economic development. The donation was announced by university Chancellor Wesley Posvar at a press conference in April, 1985. The university took over the facility in early 1986 and renamed it the University of Pittsburgh Applied Research Center.

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