Nora Barlow, née Darwin, was a daughter of Sir Horace Darwin, a civil engineer, and his wife Lady Emma "Ida" Darwin, a social reformer. Her paternal grandfather was Charles Darwin. She worked as a research assistant at the John Innes Institute from 1905, and studied plant genetics under William Bateson at Cambridge University. She was an active member of the Cambridge University Genetics Society and published papers on plant genetics in 1913 and 1923. In 1911, she married Alan Barlow, with whom she had six children. She edited a new edition of The Voyage of the Beagle in 1933, as well as several collections of Charles Darwin's letters and notes. She also published an unexpurgated version of The Autobiography of Charles Darwin with original omissions restored. She became Lady Barlow in 1938 when her husband was knighted.