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Imagecat.png For other uses, see Aperture (disambiguation).

Aperture Science, Inc.[7] is a United States-based scientific research corporation appearing as the main antagonistic organization in Portal and Portal 2, as well as its logo on the Borealis in Half-Life 2: Episode Two.

The main facility is the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, located in Upper Michigan,[1] with at least one other base of operations in Cleveland, Ohio.[8] Originally a shower curtain manufacturer named Aperture Fixtures,[9] it evolved over the course of half a century into an experimental physics research institution and a bitter rival of Black Mesa.

Aperture Laboratories is also used as a trade name by Aperture Science for most of its products, as Aperture Science dba Aperture Laboratories. Aperture Science Innovators was the trade name used before the 1970s.



Cave Johnson era

In the late 1940's, Aperture Fixtures was founded by Cave Johnson as a shower curtain manufacturer (The name "Aperture Fixtures" was chosen "to make the curtains appear more hygienic"[7]). Johnson renamed the company "Aperture Science Innovators" in 1947, also for the same purpose of making the curtains appear more hygienic.

In 1947, Cave Johnson purchased an abandoned salt mine that ran over 4200 meters underground in order to create the facility for Aperture Science.

Cave Johnson, founder and CEO.

In 1956, the Eisenhower administration signs a contract with Aperture to manufacture shower curtains to all branches of the US Military, except the Navy.[7]

Early work on the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device began; the early version, called the Aperture Science Portable Quantum Tunneling Device, proved to be too bulky for effective use, while poor surface conductors for the portals often caused mangling or death of the test subjects when they tried to use the portals.[source?] Repulsion Gel was first developed around this time as well for use as a diet supplement. At first only the brightest and best of society were chosen for testing (such as Astronauts, Olympians, and War Heroes) but after being connected to a string of astronaut disappearances in 1968, Aperture Science focused on recruiting homeless people for testing, starting in 1972. Cave suspects Black Mesa of industrial espionage on the company's products, and blames them for Aperture's bankruptcy. (Propulsion Gel was released around this time too.)

By 1981, Cave Johnson was exposed to toxic Conversion Gel, made out of ground-up moon rocks. He dies of moon-rock poisoning one year later.

Post-Cave Johnson era

As far as 1982, the Enrichment Center, where Test Subjects undergo tests, is functioning, as the Enrichment Center Test Subject Application Process, a 50-question questionnaire destined for applying Test Subjects, is already used at that time.[7] It is unknown if the Enrichment Center is already "computer-aided" in 1982, as scientists have been known to supervise Test Subjects from small offices until an undetermined date. The Enrichment Center Test Subject Application is operated by version 1.07 of GLaDOS, later "1.07a" and "1.09".[7]

In 1985, the Aperture Image Format is created.[5]

In 1985, the Aperture Image Format is maintained by Doug Rattmann.[5]

In 1986, word reaches Aperture Science management that Black Mesa is working on similar portal technology. In response to this news, Aperture Science begins developing GLaDOS.[7]

In 1996, after a decade spent bringing the Disk Operating System parts of GLaDOS to a state of more or less basic functionality, work begins on the Genetic Lifeform component.[7] During that time, the Aperture Science Red Phone plan is implemented in case GLaDOS appears to become sentient and godlike, requiring an employee to sit by a red phone on a desk in the GLaDOS chamber's entrance hall.[10]

In 1997, GLaDOS' version is 3.11.[5]

In 1998, Aperture releases other testing elements, such as the Excursion Funnel, a tractor beam-like funnel made of liquid asbestos, the Thermal Discouragement Beam, a laser to be used with a Weighted Pivot Cube to destroy Sentry Guns and activate some buttons, the Aerial Faith Plate, a catapult plate flinging into the air Test Subjects or any other object upon contact, and the Pneumatic Diversity Vent, a variant of the Vital Apparatus Vent used for distributing objects to Test Chambers.[11][12]

A back exit of Aperture Laboratories years in the future.

In 200-, the untested AI of GLaDOS is activated for the first time as one of the planned activities on Aperture's first annual bring-your-daughter-to-work day. Upon being activated, she almost instantly becomes self-aware, takes control of the facility, locks everyone inside, floods the Enrichment Center with deadly neurotoxin, but is partially halted when she is quickly fitted with a Morality Core. She then begins a permanent cycle of testing, aimed at beating Black Mesa in the race to develop functioning portal technology.[7][13] However a few days later, on May 16, the Black Mesa Incident occurs at the Black Mesa Research Facility, allowing aliens to teleport from Xen to Earth, eventually leading to the Combine invasion, stopping GLaDOS' race against Black Mesa.[13]

GLaDOS' control


As seen in the hacker message found on ApertureScience.com referring to the lock-down, the remaining employees continue working, as they are said to be working on twenty-year-old equipment. The construction of an Enrichment Center is also mentioned, suggesting that the Aperture Laboratories house several of them. The number of Aperture Science employees also likely diminishes, until there are only a few of them left. The Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device is likely already completed at that time, but it is unknown if it is before or after GLaDOS' activation.

During that period, Portal Storms continue to rage on Earth and spread chaos, eventually leading to the Seven Hour War, resulting in Earth being defeated and subsequently controlled by the Combine. Later, around 20 years after GLaDOS' activation, Gordon Freeman is awakened from his stasis by the G-Man, and arrives in City 17, which greatly disturbs the Combine's grasp on Earth.

Portal era

Parking lot and guard hut of the Aperture Science Enrichment Center.

A typical Test Chamber in the Enrichment Center.

Sometime after GLaDOS' takeover of Aperture Laboratories and shortly after the Combine invasion of Earth,[14] the Enrichment Center seems to be abandoned, and GLaDOS seems to rule it alone, although other people are apparently still trapped somewhere.[10] The scribblings left by Rattmann also seem rather old, showing that the Enrichment Center has been partially abandoned for some time. A calendar named "The girls of Aperture Science", dated 1983, is also worn-out. Chell is awakened in her Relaxation Vault in the Enrichment Center, and is guided as a Test Subject by GLaDOS, utilizing the completed ASHPD, while the A.I. shows signs of instability. When GLaDOS attempts to murder Chell at the end of her tests, she flees through maintenance areas of the Enrichment Center, and eventually seemingly destroys GLaDOS, before being dragged away inside by the Party Escort Bot.

Before her partial destruction, GLaDOS hints to Chell that things have changed since the last time she left the building, and that what is going on out there will make her wish she were back in here. GLaDOS also says she was the only thing standing between them [GLaDOS and Chell] and an undetermined group, most likely the Combine.

Portal 2 era

Portal 2 takes place a very long time after the events of Portal.[11] Chell wakes up from the Long-Term Relaxation Doug Rattmann put her in during the events of Portal 2: Lab Rat, as it was the only way for her to survive. When she wakes up, the first she hears is: "You have been in suspension for: 9. 9. 9. 9. 9. .[sound of metal structures falling apart].. 9. 9. ...". Then the message is interrupted again, not to continue. During that time, Aperture Science as it originally was likely did not exist anymore, as GLaDOS and the Personality Cores took over the partially destroyed facility, where tests are still performed.[11]

Other facts

The Borealis as seen in Episode Two.

  • Aperture Science owned a research ship, named Borealis, housing an unknown technology. It disappeared, took a chunk of its dry dock with it and soon became a legend amongst the scientific community. Debate raged between Eli Vance and Isaac Kleiner over whether the technology within should be destroyed or used. Kleiner said he felt that the power could be used to destroy the Combine, but Eli fears of another Black Mesa Incident and objects to this.
  • Aperture Science and Black Mesa were bitter rivals. As seen in the Portal maps "testchmb_a_15" and "escape_02", Aperture Science employees were briefed on Black Mesa through slideshow presentations, such as one titled "Dollar$ and Sense: Competing with Black Mesa for DoD and Government-wide Acquisition Contracts" (apparently made in the nineties, given its style). This slideshow gives some statistics pertaining to Black Mesa, a graphic comparing the GSA schedules for both Black Mesa and Aperture Science, showing that Black Mesa did not ask much and received more or less the same, while Aperture asked a lot, and received much less than Black Mesa, and compares what Aperture and Black Mesa have to submit to the Defense Logistics Agency for developing a Fuel System Icing Inhibitor, and the role of their GLaDOS in that task. These slides show how much they were directly competing for government funding; Isaac Kleiner also theorized that the Borealis disaster may have been caused by Aperture Science's rush for such funding.

"Dollar$ and Sense" slides

  • During Chell's tests, GLaDOS mentions a "self-esteem fund for girls", to which one can donate one or all of their vital organs. This is likely true, as it is apparently said as one of GLaDOS' few automatic messages.
  • The bring-your-daughter-to-work day mentioned on ApertureScience.com is also mentioned by GLaDOS in Portal, where she says that that day is the perfect time to have one's daughter tested.
  • A memo found among the ASCII art images revealed during the Portal ARG states that Aperture Science is built on three pillars, apparently coined by Cave Johnson himself:[15]

Pillar one: Science without results is just witchcraft.

Pillar two: Get results or you're fired.
Pillar three: if you suspect a coworker of bein' a witch, report them immediately. I cannot stress that enough. Witchcraft will not be tolerated.

  • Another memo suggests that Cave Johnson had some issues with official accountants, who were likely responsible for managing the funds given by the state, as they seem to be an authority higher than him.[16][17]
  • Another memo appears to be a letter from Johnson to several Test Subjects who raised their concerns about the dangers of the research conducted by Aperture Science.[17]
  • As suggested in Portal, Aperture has not much concern about its Test Subjects. A memo revealed by the Portal ARG apparently consisting of the answer to a (confidential) letter received by Cave Johnson elaborates on this, and seems to describe the four types of Test Subjects and their behavior, in a not very human way.[18] It goes as follows:


October 17th, 1976
Re: Human Enrichment & Testing Initiative, Resource Acquisitions

1. "Low Risk" Human Resource Acquisitions

a. Hoboes and Tramps
Lives spent wandering aimlessly, cowering before authority, and drinking concussive amounts of home-distilled potato alcohol make hoboes the perfect Human Enrichment test subjects. The hobo questions nothing, will follow orders if fed, and, like all hoboes, has a restless, wandering heart. (Note: The wandering heart of the hobo should not be confused with Drifting Heart Syndrome, which several transients contracted during testing.)

b. Child Orphans and Foundlings
Deep-rooted abandonment issues leave most orphans highly susceptible to shame-based psychology (for a complete list of opportune moments to obliterate the esteem of test subjects, please consult Training Video #89-D, "You'd Perform This Test Better if You Had Parents"). Recent advances in the use of scorn, flattery used in an ironic context and naked contempt as motivational tools have yielded similarly profitable results.

c. Psychiatric Patients
Past experience shows these fellows are simply not shy at all about carrying on, disrupting tests and defecating just about anywhere that pleases them. Frankly, it is off-putting, and small wonder why Aperture-brand mental institutions are being phased out in favor of more orphanages.

d. Seniors
Frail, brittle hands make holding science devices difficult. Most were born before the advent of science, and can become confused and disoriented when asked to participate in relatively simple tests (teleportation, invisibility, adjusting esteem levels of orphan children).

Known personnel


Test Subjects

Known technology

Known weapons

Other experiments

Aside from the famous experimental equipment such as the ASHPD, sentry turrets and various gels, Aperture Science conducted a number of research experiments over the course of its operation including:

  • Attempting to reduce the water content of test subjects from sixty percent to around twenty or thirty percent through the use of jet engines.
  • Using nanoparticles in the Mobility Gels to introduce "experimental genes and RNA molecules" into Test Subject's tumours caused by the facility itself.
  • Using invisible lasers to turn Test Subject's blood into gasoline, apparently unnoticeable to the person unless directly observed.
  • Introducing Fluorescent Calcium into Test Subjects through the blood to track the neuronal activity in their brain.
  • An unknown experiment whose intended short-term byproduct is the human excretion of coal.
  • Exposing the Test Subjects to a fully charged superconductor during tests in attempt to see what might happen, expecting between superpowers and tumors.
  • An unknown experiment that could turn the Test Subject's blood into "peanut water" for a few minutes.
    • Unlike the test that would turn Test Subject's blood into gasoline, it seems this one could cause immediately noticeable problems.
  • Control Group Kepler-Seven was implanted with tiny microchips about the size of a postcard into their skulls which vibrates and beeps when it gets close to reaching five hundred degrees, likely due to overheating.
  • A teleportation experiment which would sometimes fail to bring the Test Subject's skin depending on the type they have.
  • An unknown, inaccessible experiment along the player's Test Chamber course seeming to unintentionally invoke time travel.
  • Figuring out uses for ground up moon rock, although finding it to be highly poisonous.
  • Determining the result of injecting Praying Mantis DNA into Test Subjects.
    • This test was later revised for previous applicants of test to kill the army of "Mantis Men" likely produced by this with rifles.

The results of these experiments varied greatly. Many were discontinued and vitrified, sealed behind heavy vault doors with biohazard warnings. Oddly, the introductory recordings at the doors were left functional.

Behind the scenes

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The isometric Aperture Science offices from the "Portal is Free" video.

  • Aperture literally means "narrow gap or hole"; it is the term used for the iris-like opening used in cameras and certain doors, such as the bottom-mounted door on the Aperture Science Pneumatic Diversity Vent . The company's logo reflects this, as it takes the shape of an iris-like aperture. This can also be seen as a pun about portals, which are themselves holes.
  • On ApertureScience.com, "1975", "1978" and "1979" were originally given as the date for Aperture Science ceasing manufacturing only shower curtains, Johnson's mercury poisoning, and Johnson's kidney failure, respectively. These dates were later retconned to 1973, 1974 and 1976, as seen in the updated Aperture Science timeline on Game Informer.
  • In Portal, it is stated that Cave Johnson died due to being exposed to mercury while secretly developing a dangerous mercury-injected rubber sheeting, with which he plans to manufacture seven deadly shower curtains to be given as gifts to each member of the House Naval Appropriations committee[7][13] (Most likely because the decision that led to the Navy declining to buy Aperture's curtains depended on the committee). This was retconned in Portal 2.
  • When Portal was made available for free on Steam in May 2010 to coincide with its arrival on the Mac platform, a promotional video titled "Portal is Free" was released by Valve on YouTube through their official channel, and was presented as a "motivational recruitment video" (it was renamed "Portal is Free (Well, it was - now it's just a good deal)." when the deal was over), in a similar fashion to the original Portal trailer, titled "Orientation Video no. 1 - A Safe and Healthy Environment". In the video's written introduction, the deal is said to have been made possible "in part by a generous grant from Aperture Science" itself. Then the video is mostly made of isometric subjects filled with stick figures. The first isometric subject is two levels of the Aperture Laboratories, where stick figures can be seen using the ASHPD, using toilets, speaking in a projection room, reading a book, waving, etc. A 1500 Megawatt Aperture Science Heavy Duty Super-Colliding Super Button can also be seen, as well as several stacked Weighted Storage Cubes, and ATLAS and P-body. GLaDOS herself explains that Portal itself was a cornerstone recruitment tool for Aperture Science's 'Portal' project. GLaDOS then says that the game has shown them that, when confronted with science, Test Subjects may exhibit several personality flaws. Stick figure Test Subjects are then seen moving on a conveyor belt, with a Portal box in their hands. Each illustrates a personality flaw said by GLaDOS: cowardice (the Test Subject throws away its Portal box and jumps from the belt), impaired motor skills (a portal opens and the TS falls through it), poor judgement (the TS turns its back, to show a Black Mesa tattoo on the buttocks), fear of heights (the conveyor belt lowers itself, to leave the TS in the void, to let him fall while it utters a Wilhelm scream), weights (the TS gets crushed by a Companion Cube), depths (drowns in a tub of the Portal green liquid brought from underneath), bullets (Aperture Science Sentry Turrets make bullet holes in the TS), and fire (the TS goes up in flames). Then GLaDOS says that the Aperture marketing engineers have decided to give Portal for free to consumers, depicting it as a "home version of the 'Portal' project". She then suggests consumers to measure the value of those around them, and find a companion for the upcoming Cooperative Portal Testing Initiative (introduced in the Portal ARG), i.e. Portal 2. As in-universe and out-universe meet each other in "Portal is Free", the video obviously non-canon.
  • Portal series' writers Chet Faliszek and Erik Wolpaw sees the rivalry between Aperture Science and Black Mesa as "snobs versus slobs", Black Mesa being the snobs and Aperture Science "the slobs, the lovable goofballs".[14]
  • Aperture Science's logo is similar to the one featured in the software Picasa.

Artwork gallery

Portal is filled with Aperture Science and Aperture Laboratories logos, with numerous color variants.

Aperture Science logo variants

As with Black Mesa, the Aperture Science logo is directly based on the company's name, appearing as a stylized, partially closed diaphragm, with an aperture in the center. Aperture Science's logo is essentially just a camera lens with F-number 2.8 [19] An "aperture" is an adjustable opening in an optical instrument, such as a camera or telescope, that controls the amount of light passing through a lens or onto a mirror. An "aperture" can also simply refer to any opening.[20][21] However the name "Aperture Science" is likely random, as it was merely chosen for its shower curtains to appear "more hygienic".[7] Dog's unique eye is also an aperture in a diaphragm; the Emergency Intelligence Incinerator is also topped by a diaphragm. Furthermore, real-life logos such as the Picasa or the Jyske Bank logos bear similarities with the Aperture Science logo.

Aperture Laboratories logo variants

The Enrichment Center logo features the Aperture Science "diaphragm", minus one of its irises, and the words "Aperture Laboratories", written in the Univers font.

Posters and other

List of appearances