Dr. Johan Bjorksten, born in Finland, founded Bjorksten Research Laboratories, Inc. in Chicago, IL in 1944 as an individual enterprise, and by 1948, the business had outgrown its facilities in Chicago and Dr. Bjorksten began searching for a different location. Ultimately, he reached the same conclusion that Life Magazine also reached in 1948, “Madison is a great place to live” and moved his business to Wisconsin.

Dr. Bjorksten in front of Bjorksten Research Laboratories’ Fitchburg location.

Initially, his laboratory was located in rented facilities at 325 W. Gorham Street until 1950 when a 168-acre tract of land was purchased (approximately 2 miles south of Madison) in the Town of Fitchburg. The initial facility constructed at the Fitchburg site was a small (approximately 1,400 sq. ft.), concrete block building, but over the next 18 years the company expanded until it was utilizing 35,000 sq. ft. of office, laboratory, and pilot production facilities.

Bjorksten Labs in Fitchburg, WI in 1977.

Dr. Bjorksten helped found Fitchburg Research Park Associates, and Promega founder Bill Linton rented lab space from Dr. Bjorksten (in a building now known as The Upper Lab) and grew the company from there. The Earth House, the former home of Dr. Bjorksten, was eventually purchased by Linton, and now serves as a meeting space.

Dr. Bjorksten’s image from the front page of the April 22, 1955 issue of the Wisconsin State Journal, headlined “Man May Live ‘Forever’, Scientist Feels.”

Bjorksten Research Laboratories worked on projects such as weathering tests of plastics and the design of suspended envelope solar stills. Dr. Bjorksten and associates also authored numerous books and scientific papers about weathering tests of plastics and design of suspended envelope solar stills and polyesters and applications. Other specialties included adhesives/sealants, footwear/clothing, plastics/composites, process development, product design, specialized testing, and textiles/fibers.

In 1976, Dr. Bjorksten entered into an agreement with three key employees (Dr. Stanley Dunn, Orrin Lokken, and Michael Maloney) to transfer ownership of the company, but Orrin Lokken and Stanley Dunn left the company in 1984. Later in 1984, Dr. Bjorksten entered into an agreement to transfer ownership of the company to Dr. Helmut Prahl and Michael Maloney. The final payment to Dr. Bjorksten was made in October of 1985 and transfer of ownership occurred at that time.

Dr. Bjorksten died at age 88, in Charleston, SC on June 15, 1995.