Arthur Philemon Coleman was born in 1852 in Lachute, Quebec. He was the second of five children of itinerant Methodist minister, Reverend Francis Coleman and his wife, Emmeline Maria Adams. Coleman’s youth was spent in rural, eastern Ontario. The Coleman children attended small local schools, and as the family had little money, the boys spent their summers working on neighbours’ farms.
Education was important to the family. Emmeline’s sister Mary Electa Adams had a distinguished career pioneering higher education for women in Ontario. All of the children attended university or colleges of higher learning. Eldest brother Albert attended the British American College in Hamilton; Arthur, Lucius and Rufus obtained Bachelors of Arts degrees from Victoria College, Cobourg and Helena studied Music at the Ontario Ladies College in Whitby.
A.P. Coleman was an excellent student and a gifted artist. He chose science over art as a career, and decided to specialize in Geology. Coleman obtained his Ph.D. from Breslau University, Germany in 1881 after training in chemistry, mineralogy, botany and zoology. Coleman continued to draw and paint throughout his life; trips and expeditions were sketched, photographed, and recorded. Beside Coleman’s geological investigations, the scientist observed his environment, the people, the flora and the fauna. An excellent writer and public speaker, Coleman extended the boundaries of his fellow citizens by teaching, lecturing, writing and exhibiting.