Workman, Thomas (1843–1900), naturalist, traveller, and businessman, was born 14 August 1843, third son among fifteen children of Robert Workman and Jane Workman (née Service) of Ceara, Malone Road, Belfast. His father's family was originally from Saltcoats, Ayrshire, Scotland, and Robert came to Belfast (1807) to join his brother John, who had set up a muslin manufacturing business with £20,000 from his father. Robert successfully developed the overseas element of the business and was a prominent figure in the political and religious life in Belfast. He also had an interest in science, and the first meeting of the British Association in Belfast (1852) was held in his warehouse on Bedford St.
There is little information on Thomas's early education, but from his childhood he was keenly interested in natural history, no doubt supported by his father. As a young man he was encouraged to collect spiders by a Professor Cambridge, and he remained an avid collector for the rest of his life. Many specimens were collected on his extensive travels as part of the family business in Europe as well as further afield: Brazil, Egypt, India, Burma, Singapore, China, Ceylon, Java, the Philippines, and the USA. He kept a journal of his observations which included detailed illustrations and photographs. On his return home he often lectured to members of the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society, of which he was an active member (president 1898–1900). He continued to collect locally and published a list of Irish spiders in the Entomologist, xiii (1880). His largest body of work was volume I of his Malaysian spiders (1896), the illustrations drawn and coloured by himself and all derived from his own collection. Volume II was completed but not published before his death. On a return trip to the USA he caught an illness after crossing the Rocky Mountains from Vancouver and died 11 May 1900 at St Paul, Minnesota, aged 56.
Besides his interests in the linen industry (as director of the Irish Weaving Co. Ltd) he was founder and vice-chairman of Workman, Clark & Co., shipbuilders. He was also an ardent member of the presbyterian church, JP for Co. Down, and for many years an ex-officio member of the Belfast board of guardians, although he never took any prominent part in public affairs. He married Margaret Elliot, daughter of James Hill, receiver general for Scotland. They had three sons and four daughters and lived at Craigdarragh, Helen's Bay, Co. Down. His son Robert Workman was active in Belfast public life and was president of the Linen Hall Library (1928–49). After Thomas's death his vast spider collection was presented to the National Museum, Dublin, and from it selected specimens were transferred to the Ulster Museum, Belfast, and the British Museum. Two tropical spiders were named after him: Damarchus workmanii Thor. and Theridium workmanii Thor.