Margaret Gatty, née Scott, was born in Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex, England, the daughter of the Rev. Alexander John Scott, a Royal Navy chaplain who was a friend of Horatio, Lord Nelson, on board HMS Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar. In 1839, she married the Rev. Alfred Gatty, of the Church of St. Mary, in Ecclesfield, Yorkshire. She had 10 children, and it was during a prolonged convalescence from childbirth in 1848 that she was launched on a career as a science popularizer. Recuperating at the seaside in Hastings, she began collecting seaweed. She also met and befriended William Harvey, who gave her his book Phycologia Britannica to help her pass the time. She corresponded with him and other botanists and marine biologists of her day, including George Busk and Robert Brown. She eventually amassed a collection of marine material gathered from the far reaches of the British Empire. She began to write books for children, including The Fairy-Godmothers (1851) and the bestselling Parables from Nature (1856-1861), a series of stories mixing science, religion, and morality. She also wrote British Sea-Weeds (1863), which established her reputation as a serious amateur scientist. Her daughter Juliana Horatia Ewing also became a writer.