Margaret Dickens Whinney was the daughter of architect Thomas Bostock Whinney and his wife Sydney Margaret Dickens, a granddaughter of the famous novelist Charles Dickens. She attended private schools before entering the University of London, from which she graduated in 1935. Her first article on art history appeared while she was still an undergraduate. Margaret Whinney joined the staff of the new Courtauld Institute of Art, doing a variety of small jobs, including managing the slide library, intending to work her way up into a higher position, still difficult for a woman during that period. She continued her studies at the Courtauld, and developed an interest in architectural history. The Courtauld closed for a year at the start of World War II, and reopened in 1940 with Margaret Whinney in charge. The same year, the research she had done on 17th-century drawings was accepted for a D. Litt. at the University of London. After the war, Anthony Blunt assumed the directorship of the Institute. Dr. Whinney was made a Reader at the Courtauld in 1950 and with Anthony Blunt edited a guide to the public art collections in the UK. In 1957, she and Oliver Millar wrote the volume on the period 1625-1714 for the Oxford History of English Art series. Dr. Whinney was then asked to write the Pelican History of Art volume on British Sculpture from the Renaissance to the Nineteenth Century, which was published in 1964. The same year, she retired from the Courtauld Institute. She co-authored with Rupert Gunnis the catalog on the models of John Flaxman at University College, London, and independently wrote a book on early Flemish painting. In 1971, Dr. Whinney wrote an introductory book on Christopher Wren.