Oliver Bulman was born 20th May 1902 in Wandsworth, the second of three children born to Henry Herbert Bulman, an artist and his wife Beatrice Elizabeth Boone. His younger sister Joan C. Bulman gained a first class honours degree in Swedish from Cambridge University, later becoming a specialist in Swedish literature, whilst his elder brother Micheal W.B Bulman became a distinguished gynaecologist and served Norwich as its lord Mayor in 1959-60, as well as being involved in the founding of the University of East Anglia.
After attending Battersea Grammar School in 1910, evening classes at Chelsea polytechnic in 1920-1921, University College London 1922-1923, and the Imperial College of Science and Technology 1925-1926, Oliver arrived at Sidney Sussex College to study dendroid graptolites with Miss Gertrude L. Elles at the Sedgwick Museum. His work on dendroid graptolies earned him a Cambridge Ph.D degree which was additional to the Ph.D he obtained in London for his work on Shineton Shales.
However, he returned to London in 1928 to take up a demonstratorship in Zoology and from 1929 taught geology at the Imperial College until 1931. W.B.R King (1889-1963) took up the Yates-Goldsmid chair of geology at University College, London leaving a lecturer position in geology available in Cambridge, which Bulman filled. When Henry Woods (1868-1952) retired from the lectureship in Palaeozoology Bulman succeeded him.
Teaching dominated his work over the next couple of years, but he also became the biological secretary of the Cambridge Philosophical Society in 1936. Two years later he married Marguerite, the elder daughter of Professor and Mrs W.G Fearnsides.
In 1939 Bulman received a grant to study the levis shale graptolites in Quebec. At the start of the Second World War he served as a special constable and in 1941 joined the Royal Observer Corps. He continued with his work, intermittently throughout the war and was soon promoted to a readership in Palaeozology and a fellow at Sidney Sussex College.
When W.B.R King retired from the Woodwardian Professorship in 1955, Bulman was appointed to succeed him. 1959 saw him President of the Paleontological association and a year later became Vice-Master of Sidney Sussex College (1960-1962). In 1962 he took up membership of the Geological Survey advisory board, which became the Natural Environment Research Councils (NERC) geology and geophysics research committee, and President of the Geological Society of London. In 1963 he was appointed a trustee of the British Museum (Natural History).
Awards included the Huxley Memorial Medal and Prize in 1928 and the Lyall Medal in 1953. Bulman was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1940 and sat on the council from 1950-1952, and made a fellow of Imperial College of Science and Technology in 1961.
In 1966 Bulman retired from the Woodwardian Professorship at the age of 64. He subsequently spent two months in Oslo working on Graptolites. Bulman was given a room to use at the Sedgwick Museum where he continued to concentrate on graptolites. In 1971 he became president of the Palaeontographical Society.
In the Spring of 1972 one of his lungs was removed and he endured further surgery for an intestinal adjustment. Oliver became seriously ill in the summer of 1973 and died 18 February 1974.