Professor Donald Gorman has served the Canadian mining industry with distinction for more than half a century as a renowned mineralogist and superbly talented educator. Born in Fredericton, he completed a BSc degree in his native New Brunswick in 1947, after his studies were interrupted by wartime service in the Canadian Navy. After spending 1948-1949 studying economic geology as a graduate student at the Royal School of Mines in London, England, he earned a PhD degree at the University of Toronto in 1957 and launched his teaching career.
“Digger” Gorman taught mineralogy with unflagging enthusiasm for the next 41 years, inspiring hundreds of geology and engineering students to pursue careers in mining and mineral exploration. He commanded respect in the classroom by exemplifying the two sides of science: on the one side the rigorous analysis of minerals and their composition and significance; and on the other the pleasure that comes from solving geological puzzles and discovering mineral treasure. To those he taught, minerals were not chemical formulae and crystal structures, but living things that tell a timeless story, shape history and spur human progress. His incomparable mastery of the mineral kingdom was the foundation of his teaching success, and this rare ability combined with an engaging personality dominated his teaching and resulted in generations of students emerging from the University of Toronto with a better grounding in mineral recognition than anywhere else in Canada.
In addition to being a gifted educator, Gorman was a valued mentor to prospective mineralogists and geologists, a sought-after industry consultant and applied researcher, and an entertaining advocate for his science at popular public events. For decades he was the star attraction at mineral and gem shows, such as the Bancroft Gemboree where novice rockhounds and experienced prospectors alike tried to stump the expert with countless obscure mineral specimens. He seldom failed to identify them, even those that weren’t naturally occurring substances at all. He was a popular lecturer at the Royal Ontario Museum and the Walker Mineralogical Club, the oldest mineral club in Canada, which named him its Honourary President in 1981. His outreach activities included memorable presentations to youth and church groups, and radio and television appearances that entrenched his status as Canada’s ambassador for mineralogy and geological sciences.
Gorman has received many awards for his outstanding teaching abilities and exemplary advancement of science, including the Peacock Prize for Mineralogy for 1975-76. In 1978, he was presented with the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Association’s award for outstanding teaching. In 1981, the International Mineralogical Association approved the name gormanite for a newly discovered mineral. In 2004, he was included in the University of Toronto’s list of Great Teachers from the Past, a select group of only 96 former faculty members that includes only one other earth scientist.