Irene Manton was born in England to a wealthy family descended on her mother's side from the French aristocracy. Her sister Sidnie Manton became a well-known entomologist. Irene was educated at St. Paul's Girls' School and Cambridge University, and received her PhD at the University of Manchester. Most of her academic career was spent at the University of Leeds, where she was the first female professor and the first woman to head a department. She was Professor of Botany from 1946 until 1969, and Professor Emerita after her retirement. Her work focused on ferns and algae. She wrote Problems of Cytology and Evolution in the Pteridophyta (1950) and more than 170 scientific papers. For her work on algae, Prof. Manton was one of the first botanists to use the electron microscope. Her pioneering cytological studies revealed the structure of cilia and flagella and brought her international renown. In 1969, she shared the Linnean Medal with Ethelwynn Trewavas. She was appointed the first, and so far only, female President of the Linnean Society of London in 1973. Prof. Manton was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1961. She also was a violinist and a collector of modern and oriental art, which she bequeathed to the University of Leeds.