Durk Jakob Doornbos was born in Groningen, The Netherlands, on April 1, 1943. He died on April 27, 1993, after a bicycle accident in Oslo that same day.
He graduated from the University of Groningen in 1965 and received his Doctorate in Geophysics (cum laude) from the University of Utrecht in 1974. He served as a senior lecturer there until 1980, when he moved to the NORSAR Institute in Kjeller, Norway, as a senior scientist. In 1985, he was appointed professor of physics of the solid Earth in the Department of Geophysics at the University of Oslo, the first in this discipline at the university.