Donald Ross was born in Wisconsin. He received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Texas.
He began working for Tennessee Eastman Corporation at Clinton Engineer Works in June of 1943 on the Manhattan Project. He was trained on the electromagnetic separation process at the University of California-Berkeley, and was then transferred to Oak Ridge. At Oak Ridge, he served as a technical supervisor, supervising calutron girls on the uranium enrichment process. In 1945, he was drafted into the Special Engineer Detachment. He returned to Oak Ridge in July 1945. Ross received a medal for being a member of the Special Engineer Detachment.
He and his wife, Martha, met at Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project and were married at the Chapel on the Hill. Ross continued to work for Tennessee Eastman in Oak Ridge after the war.